Both Prayer and Sacrifice Begin with Charity
St. John the Evangelist writes in his first letter that “we love because he first loved us… If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.'” [See 1 John 4:19-20]
Hard words. But it’s the truth.
Whether we are dealing with God or with a fellow human being, our primary disposition should be that of charity… of love.
If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
Yesterday I wrote about the new CRS Rice Bowl app that is now available for the iPhone and for Android. I’m really digging this app. It very politely reminds me every morning of my Lenten commitments of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
This morning the CRS Rice Bowl app greeted me with this simple reflection from Pope Francis:
“Where do I find hope? In the poor Jesus, Jesus who made himself poor for us. And you spoke of poverty. Poverty calls us to sow hope. This seems a bit difficult to understand. I remember Fr. Arrupe [Father General of the Jesuits from 1965–1983] wrote a letter to the Society’s centers for social research. At the end he said to us: ‘Look, you can’t speak of poverty without having experience with the poor.’ You can’t speak of poverty in the abstract: that doesn’t exist. Poverty is the flesh of the poor Jesus, in that child who is hungry, in the one who is sick, in those unjust social structures. Go forward, look there upon the flesh of Jesus. But don’t let well-being rob you of hope, that spirit of well-being that, in the end, leads you to becoming a nothing in life. Young persons should bet on their high ideals, that’s my advice. But where do I find hope? In the flesh of Jesus who suffers and in true poverty. There is a connection between the two.” —Pope Francis, Question and answer session with Jesuit School students (June 7, 2013)
Pope Francis and Mother Teresa
I read that simple reflection above before morning Mass. It reminded me so much of my 2 years of formation with Mother Teresa’s priests, The Missionaries of Charity Fathers. That was in Mexico, back in the late 1980s. While with the MC Fathers, I lived among the poorest of the poor, and I interacted with them daily. Like Pope Francis, the spirituality of Mother Teresa was simple. It cut straight to the heart of things. And its focus was fixed on Jesus. Not just the Jesus in the gospels. Not just the Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. But the Jesus in the flesh and blood of the poor. Frequently Mother Teresa would remind us of Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 25: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Cooking as an Act of Charity
Missionaries in foreign countries probably get many opportunities to love Jesus by serving the poor and feeding the hungry. But for regular moms and dads, especially in our affluent United States of America, brushing elbows with the poorest of the poor might be a rare event.
Or is it?
Mother Teresa also used to remind us that:
There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them.
Our spouses, our sons and daughters, our parents… these might very well be the poor in our lives. By loving and serving them, we are loving and serving Jesus.
I speak frequently about the blessings of gathering around the table with family and friends. God made us to long for communion… Communion with God and communion with each other. And so often communion is experienced around the table. There really is something spiritual – sacramental even – in gathering together around the table.
For a cook, these family gatherings are an opportunity to feed the hungry Jesus. Our family members have to eat to sustain their bodies, but they are often hungry for love, affirmation, and attention too.
Below is one of the recipes from the CRS Rice Bowl website. Mukimo is often served as a side dish, and it appears on the table at all major family and community celebrations. For this particular recipe (as you will see below in the video with Fr. Leo of Grace Before Meals), the Mukimo is served alongside rice.
Mukimo: A Meatless Meal from Kenya
- 4 large potatoes, chopped
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1-2 cloves crushed garlic
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 cups of spinach or other leafy green, chopped
- 1 16-oz bag frozen corn
- 1 16-oz bag frozen peas
- 2 Tbsp fair trade olive oil
- Place potatoes, onions, garlic and salt in a pot with water to cover the tops of the potatoes.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-high heat and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes).
- Add spinach, corn and peas, and cook until water has completely evaporated (about 5 minutes).
- Add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until spinach is tender. Remove from heat and mash entire mixture until it resembles mashed potatoes.