Jesus’ solution to poverty and hunger in the world, 17 Sunday 2018

Friends, many of you know that I have founded a charity or non-profit organization, SpringAid International Development (SAID) dedicated to fighting the root causes of poverty and hunger in the world. Today, we are in two countries in Africa, three in Europe and one in America. Through entrepreneurship, health promotion, social housing, microfinance and education, we collaborate with the poor and marginalized to help them break the bark of poverty and hunger. Since 2008, when the organization was founded, we have reached thousands of people and helped many to change their lives. Some of the biblical texts that have given me inspiration in this work are in the stories we read in both today's first and gospel readings. Now let's dig into the texts.

Like many, I have always interpreted these texts in the light of the eucharist. But only having the Eucharist in mind in reading these texts would not do justice to them. It was a pitfall that I and probably many have fallen into. Today, I would say I have gained a better and deeper insight into these texts and how they should be interpreted with regard to the contexts and how they are applied today, in our time.

Although we complain of food shortages in the world, the most scandalous food wastages occur in the food sector. Research conducted by the US Department of Agriculture reveals that a quarter of food products end up in bins every day, not to mention what is deliberately destroyed before it reaches the market. This is incomprehensible in the light of thousands of people who die because of hunger every day.

The term hunger occurs 134 times in the Old Testament. Many times, due to lack of rain, the countries of the Middle East were often affected by this disaster. It is for the same reason that we see that lack of rain has led to extreme drought in several African countries and now millions of people are threatened by famine. In Burkina Faso and Mali, where hundreds of thousands live in acute food shortage, humanitarian organizations share food and supplies to vulnerable families. In many countries, many people are so hungry that they like the biblical Esau are ever willing to sell their dignity in order to have something to fill their stomachs. It is also a fact that a hungry person is often an angry person.

Hunger has always been a human problem. Those who have nothing to eat worry and fight for food and drink. The story in 2 Kings 4: 42-44 throws light on the problem of hunger. There is a play on words with bread and battle. During an attack by the Canaanites, the people of Israel were seized by panic. To instil courage in them, Joshua and Caleb exclaimed, "Do not be afraid, for they will be bread for us" (Numbers 14: 9). Strangely, the Hebrew root of the word "bread" consists of the same consonants of the verb "to fight", as if to indicate that the struggle for food is the cause of war. When Israel had no bread, they complained to the Lord: "In Egypt we sat down to eat all bread" (Exodus 16: 3).

From experience, we learn that only when bread is shared, it ceases to be a source of competition and controversy and becomes a sign of love, brotherhood and community. To eat bread with somebody is to regard this as brothers or sisters, a friend to trust, an ally from whom one does not expect any betrayal (Ps 41:10). It is communion with the other. God's plan is to gather all his children around his table (Ps 128: 3).

Like the poor of Israel, the dream of today's poor and hungry is about daily bread. They do not dream about big things, but to have their daily bread and maybe they can eat like the rich three times a day. The abundance of bread was the sign of God's blessing (Ps 37:25) and its lack of punishment for sin (Ez. 4: 16-17).

The miracle narrated in today's first reading occurred during a terrible famine. The situation was so desperate that people to survive ate roots, leaves and herbs, even poisonous things (2 Kings 4: 38-41). Barley grows on bad and rough terrain and have less value than wheat (Up 6: 6). Its maturation cycle is shorter than for wheat, because it is the first gathered during harvest time. It is harvested in spring, around Easter. The rich, prefer the wheat bread, the poorer classes instead were satisfied with barley that were cheaper. It is therefore a poor farmer who, with a gesture of incredible generosity, deprives himself of valuable food to surrender it to the prophet Elisa. He does not keep it for himself. They were the first fruits of his farm. He feels the need to share the gift he received from God.

In Paul's letter (Ephesians 4: 1-6), we understand that the first characteristics of discipleship is "humility", which is understood as the choice of the last place, the will to serve, bend to raise the poor. Then come "mildness, patience" (verse 2). There are seven reasons why unity should rule among Christians: "Let there be one body and one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, all Father."

Today's gospel text tells how Jesus multiplied bread and fish and fed five thousand men apart from women and children. It deliberately emphasizes the disciples' role in this. Of all the signs that Jesus performed, none of them is told as many times as the multiplication of bread. All the evangelists report at least once, Matthew and Mark twice; It is told six times in total.

Today, we are offered John's version of the wonder. It is different in many details from the others. The story begins with a chronological indication: "Now the Passover, the Feast of the Jews, was at hand" (verse 4). This is not an information, but a theological framework that serves to highlight the significance of the episode. John wants the text to be read in the light of the great celebration of Israel's liberation from slavery in Egypt.

All these references are intended to present Jesus as the new Moses beginning with humanity, a new exodus, a passage from slavery to freedom, from an unsustainable and inhuman state to real life. The destination of the journey of Moses was the land of Canaan, that of Jesus is the true promised land, the kingdom of God, the kingdom there - as the prophets announced - everyone will have rich and free food (Isa 25: 6).

There have always been different opinions about hunger in the world. The UN and other global institutions are struggling to eradicate poverty and hunger in the world. At the same time there is some scepticism about this. Through a brilliant dialogue, Jesus revealed the strategies dictated by the wisdom of the people to solve the problem of hunger in the world, which are our strategies and the evangelist has placed it wisely on the apostles' mouth.

The conclusion is: there is no solution; The mouth to feed is too many and resources are insignificant. Creation is not entirely successful. The highest available in this world is a good organization of social assistance, but it is unthinkable that misery can be defeated.

It is written in Mishna, in order to meet the poor's daily needs, 1/12 is needed by a denar. Philip makes a quick calculation: with 200 denar, 4800 half-loaves can be prepared (v. 7). But where do you find a lot of money and a lot of bread? Perhaps we say we have very little, almost nothing, but if we leave it to Jesus, it will become enough. Jesus transforms and multiplies the bread.

In Luke's gospel, the twelve submit another very realistic and acceptable proposal: "Send the crowd away and let them go into villages and farms around to buy something to eat" (Luke 9:12). In other words, it is a problem that does not concern faith. They come to us to pray, meditate, listen to the word of God. In the case of bread, everybody must do as he or she can. This is widespread thought even today that there are two distinct separate and unrelated spheres: the Kingdom of God on the one hand and material life on the other. I have met priests and pastors who think they are called only to look after the spiritual needs of the people not their material challenges. Where is the place of the mission of Jesus to give the life to the full (Joh 10:10)?

When people could not see any sustainable solution to the problem, Jesus comes with one. "Let the people sit down" (verse 10). The idea that the Kingdom of God is a sphere different from reality is therefore rejected. The word of Christ is meant to be a social fermentation, to transform the whole world and the whole person.

The people are asked to sit on green grass on a meadow that becomes an original table for the meal. "There was plenty of grass there" (verse 10) - the evangelist's notes - and this detail, seemingly marginal and superfluous, is significant because it explicitly refers to the psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. He lets me lie in green pastures "(Ps 23: 1-2). If Jesus makes them sit in the green pastures, it means that he presents himself as the shepherd announced by the prophets, meaning that the kingdom of God is inaugurated (Is 25: 6) that the new world has begun, the world where nobody will fight for food because there will be an abundance for everyone. The kingdom of God is something that its enjoyment should already be started on earth....

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