On December 8th, the Church began the Year of Mercy. In the Pope’s letter to the Church, Misericordiae Vultus, he reminds us to “rediscover [the] corporal works of mercy”. So that we may “reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.” Today we continue the weekly series on Mercy by looking at the corporal work of mercy: feeding the hungry
“What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
In the United States we are sometimes lulled into the belief that everyone is able to go to bed with a full stomach. However, the USDA reports that about 13.8% of the population in Florida experiences food insecurity, meaning that they do not know where their next meal is coming from. It is important for us to remember always that some do not have their full human dignity due to not being able to eat.
We are beings of both flesh and spirit. To truly have our dignity we must be complete both body and spirit. To lack in one of those two is not to be fullness of what God intended for us. Each of the corporal works of mercy attempt to correct a deficiency in a person’s body. Through the works a person is able to be made whole physically. In feeding the hungry a person is able to receive the nutrition that is necessary to live in the world. The importance of being able to eat is shown in the Lord’s Prayer where we ask God to “, give us this day our daily bread.” In God’s Mercy when the people of Israel wandered the desert for 40 years, he gave them “bread of heaven,” as a sign of his mercy. To be without bread, without food, is to have something lacking in our lives. We are not truly whole without it.
Those of us that eat of the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, should take the graces that we receive from it to be channels of God’s mercy. We should remind ourselves as we eat our meals that we are blessed to have a meal to fill our stomachs and pray for those that do not their daily bread.” What is even more shocking is that 30-40% of the food supply in the United States is wasted, more than 20lbs of food per person in the US is thrown away. Pope Francis reminds us that “waste of food is theft of the poor.” As we gather together for our family meals we can attempt to ensure none of our food is wasted.
In addition to prayer we should perform works. Here in Lakeland we are fortunate enough to be able to volunteer at Talbot House. There we can cook for the hungry and help serve the food. Allow us to see the face of the hungry and to get to know the stories of those that go without food. In addition, we can continue to bring our food to the Parish Food Pantry that feeds many families every week. We can also make monetary donations to Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities so that they may feed the poor not only locally but worldwide. Finally, we as Catholics can band together to encourage our governments to prevent widespread hunger in the world in the first place. In this way we can ensure that our prayers for less hunger in this world are not dead because of our works.