First Sunday: … We Need To Feed The Body With Bread
Second Sunday:… We Need To Feed The Person With Hope
Third Sunday: … We Need To Feed The Soul With Grace
Fourth Sunday: …We Need To Feed The Heart With Love
In the Gospel of Matthew the evangelist relates a parable given by Jesus about what was expected of his disciples and followers (separating the sheep from the goats) which ends with these verses:
“The ruler will say to those on the right: ‘Come, you blessed of my Abba God! Inherit the kindom prepared for you from the creation of the world! For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me; in prison and you came to visit me.’
These Acts of Mercy would come to be called the Corporal Works of Mercy. However it is set of values rooted in the more ancient tradition of Judaism itself as reflected in Isaiah 58:3-7 talking about fasting as a religious activity:
Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
Rather is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed to go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
This carries over into Jewish spirituality for in Judaism, showing hospitality (hakhnasat orchim) to guests is considered a mitzvah (blessing and command). When one knows of strangers who are hungry or need a place to relax, it becomes a legal obligation. Some rabbis consider hakhnasat orchim (literally the “bringing in of strangers”) to be a part of gemilut hasadim (giving of loving kindness).
Jesus was Jewish and in his own instructions to his disciples and followers counseled a continuation of this ancient tradition.
And so too do we this year focus on the Corporal Works of Mercy … and in fact will zero in on the first … TO FEED THE HUNGRY … physically (with food), psychologically (with hope), spiritually (with grace) and personally (with friendship, community and love). Let us prepare for our celebration of Christmas by following in the ancient tradition of Judaism and Practice Loving Kindness.