By Deacon John De Gano
The disciples were worried.
Jesus had amassed a huge crowd. Early head counts put that number in the thousands. Maybe 5,000 men alone! And Jesus had been speaking to and healing their sick for hours. He showed no sign of breaking up the gathering so they could be sent off to find themselves food and lodging for the night.
At long last, one of the disciples took Jesus aside and said, “Dismiss them, Jesus. They need to go.”
Jesus seemed surprised at this request and replied, “Why? Give them something to eat yourselves.”
This miracle of the loaves and the fishes prefigured Jesus’ own sacrifice – the giving of his body and blood (the Eucharist) – for the salvation of the world. Only his disciples didn’t understand that yet.
All they knew was that Jesus was about hospitality. And clearly, he expected the same from his disciples.
That sense of hospitality is later seen in the Acts of the Apostles, (Acts 2:42) where St. Luke describes the early Christian community as sharing everything in common and caring for the needs of one another.
That was then, one might say, this is now…
During this time of Covid we are not allowed to gather as a community.
Many of us are living in isolation, hunkering down, avoiding crowds, and praying that the virus doesn’t get passed onto us or our families. Our churches have halted social gatherings outside of the liturgy and limited the number of attendees at Mass to keep the faithful as safe as possible. We’ve been given a dispensation from the requirement to attend the weekly Mass (in person) by our bishops and most parishes now provide livestreamed masses for their ‘home bound’ and ‘at home’ participants.
But we need not sit idly by, bemoaning our situation. We can look for ways to spread hope through the hospitality we show to one another.
“Give them something…”
We can give of our time and phone someone we know and talk. Or get on a Zoom call and/or Skype a distant relative and tell them we’re thinking of them. We can support our local food banks or Catholic Charities so those who are in need can receive assistance. If we can sew, make face masks. Or make rosaries for our troops. We can even knit blankets and socks for the elderly or newborn. The possibilities are endless.
Hope comes to us when we put others first.
For this coming Valentine’s Day, Cheryl gifted me with my very own soup ladle.
Now some of you might think that this isn’t very romantic, but I disagree. It reminds me of the Advent soup ‘drop ins’ (gatherings) we used to host in our home every December before we entered Diaconate formation. We’d serve up bowls of hot soup and bread while mingling with our guests who’d help us decorate our Christmas tree. We’d also participate in the annual Lenten soup suppers along with our parish community.
I believe that soup warms the soul. Elicits conversation. And brings community together.
And though we may not be able to gather in person this Lent, I am sure that my new ladle will not lay idle or dormant. From its prominent spot in the kitchen, it will continue to serve as a daily reminder to expect Jesus’ personal invitation to hospitality.
And when that invitation comes, we (my soup ladle and I) will be ready to spring into action, dishing out a dollop of hope, a modicum of love and some tasty soup.
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.