The Mediterranean beckons but I will have to settle for a different kind of water this summer; heading "home," is not an option, given the global pandemic and there is a strong possibility that next year will be unfavorable for travel as well. Travel -- even travel to see family-- however, is a luxury. World-wide, millions of people are facing catastrophe on every level, from getting sick to ending up in the morgue, from being unable to harvest their crops to losing markets for their produce, from shutting down their businesses to being unable to pay for food, shelter, health care...
As reputable doctors will tell us, all these disasters could have been contained if only everyone practiced social distancing, avoided large gatherings, wore a mask and washed their hands. These instructions are simple, so why is it that so many people play "Russian Roulette" with their lives and with the lives of everyone with whom they come into contact? Is it because the cult of individualism obscures one's responsibility to society? Or because citizens mistakenly think that "civil liberties" mean the right to harm everyone else? Or because "it's cool," or "macho," or "politically advantageous" to defy the call to wear a mask?
Decades ago, my parents' generation understood the meaning of "the common good." My dad, at 19 years of age, was just a few months away from finishing law school when World War II broke out, yet he abandoned his studies and signed up for active duty. My mother, then 13, left boarding school, and, along with her parents and siblings, relocated to their summer house, away from their home in a highly strategic area near the harbor. Everyone on the island did their part. They waited in food lines, dimmed lights at night time, took cover in air raid shelters, and bartered goods for food in order to survive. Only 122 square miles in size,
Malta endured the heaviest, sustained bombing of any country in the world:
6,700 tons of bombs dropped over the course of
154 days. However, the Maltese were united in their efforts to defy both Hitler and Mussolini, and, on April 15, 1942, King George VI awarded the George Cross to the people of Malta in recognition of their bravery.
Globally, we are in the middle of a blitz every bit as terrifying as the bombardment my parents and their contemporaries experienced. The difference is that today we are witnessing a complete disregard for the public well-being, the demonizing of those seemingly different from ourselves and the refusal to make small sacrifices for the sake of the common good. The sirens are blaring :
I'm wearing a mask -- are you?
PS Try my spiritual self-assessment tool!
After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated diagram and explanatory comments regarding your strengths and "growing edges."
I hope you find the Quiz useful!
Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the waters!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money on what is not bread;
your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me
and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
Many years ago, I had a memorable dream that I named,
I was at a formal banquet, surrounded by elegantly dressed individuals who were eating a sumptuous meal. The last to be served, I was delighted when the head chef appeared, carrying an enormous platter with a gleaming silver cloche or domed lid. Ceremoniously, the chef placed the platter before me, removed the cloche, and bowed. I stared in disbelief at two small triangles of burnt toast in the middle of the platter; the food was inedible but neither the chef nor the other guests seemed to notice my predicament. Upon waking, I understood the dream almost immediately: the "burnt toast" represented all the many commitments that were consuming my time, energy and zest for life; I was spending myself on what was not bread, working for that which failed to satisfy. Focusing on survival issues, I was missing out on contemplative time, relaxation, enough sleep, and the activities that gave me the greatest joy.
In today's Gospel, the crowd receives grain freely and without price. There is no need to work or to beg, or even to go hungry: God provides. All they have to do is sit and listen to Jesus' teachings. Not only is their hunger satisfied, but there are leftovers as well -- twelve wicker baskets full!
Divine arithmetic means that we are surrounded by abundance. Even when we feel "poor," God has riches to share with us -- a stranger's kindness, a surprise gift, a new opportunity, renewed strength... If we live "heedfully," that is, if we are attentive to God's Presence and mindful of the present moment, the "rich fare" for which we hunger and thirst will never be in short supply.