One of the key exercises in our formation program for public school teachers is for each school to have 10 descriptors of the world of the Filipino youth, specifically their students. Then the teachers identify the hungers, if any, of their students that underlie each descriptor.
It is this exercise that serves as the transition from the personal formation aspect of the program to its main goal of building a caring community in their schools. A team works with each school called the Builders’ Team, and each school has a specific builder assigned to it.
The philosophy of the Builders’ Team, and our formation team, is that we have to think, act and live like the early church: Do our work as a mission, with the missionary zeal, and build communities with single-minded and single-hearted clarity of vision to build caring communities, because it is within such a community that students, the teachers and other stakeholders, can be loved into excellence.
This is one key element in the philosophy of education that we espouse.
I invite you to recall these graces of the early church that established the first Christian communities. These were singular graces like clarity of vision, and from this springs a sense of mission to live out and proclaim this vision.
Today’s readings for the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, or what used to be known as Corpus Christi, remind us of the central mystery and grace of our Christian faith, the founding vision of our Christian community, the church—the perfect sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood on the Cross that won for us our eternal redemption in the Resurrection.
The Gospel this Sunday (Luke 9: 11b-17) is the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. We see Christ preaching and healing, and in other gospel accounts, expelling demons.
In other accounts, we read that Christ and his community were supposed to retreat and rest after a series of missionary work, but as they reached their supposed hideaway, crowds met them, and Christ was moved. “His heart was moved with pity, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
As he satisfies deep spiritual, psychic hunger, he senses their physical or bodily hunger for food and drink. He satisfies even this hunger.
The multiplication of the loaves and fish has become one of the signs of the establishment of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Mass where the body and blood of Christ are offered, then given to us as the sacrament of our salvation.
Moment of grace
The Eucharist, the Mass is where we see and experience this moment of grace when the deep hungers of humanity are satisfied by the love of God in the perfect sacrifice of Christ. To paraphrase Frederick Buchener, the Eucharist is the meeting point between the world’s deep hunger and the deep gladness of God.
In our faith tradition, the Judeo-Christian tradition, the remembering in the Eucharist is a special moment as we bring to life the grace we remember Christ’s saving act on the Cross and the Father’s response in the Resurrection.
What are the hungers that surround us? People still long for God’s word. In a recent Time Magazine cover story, the rise of the Latino Evangelical churches was highlighted. It was a tremendous growth not just in Latin America, but also in North America.
As the article describes it, the growth is what one might call exponential, phenomenal.
Even in our Catholic church there is a growing desire for prayer groups that are very scripture-based. People look for groups that also do bible study. Requests for retreats and recollections seem to be growing.
Clearly the hunger for God’s word, for some form of spirituality is very much an expressed hunger we need to respond to.
The other hunger is the hunger for healing. Call it what you wish, there is a hunger for a sense of wholeness; healing of all forms of ailments and brokenness.
One icon of this prayer for healing is the Quiapo devotion, the annual procession that affirms the faith of our people in the miracles of Christ; miracles that heal all forms of brokenness and want. In the last three years, I have become aware of various and more healing prayer services and Masses done by different healing priests.
Even on the “non-religious” front, you see the rise of healing practices— the growing movement for natural healing, yoga, meditation, life coaches, therapy, going organic, the healing of nature. All these express a hunger for healing; a hunger for wholeness.
In a previous article, I talked about the growing inequality between the rich and the poor amid the increasing creation of wealth in Asia. This is true for us in the Philippines. Just late last week, we received the amazing, great news of the growth in our GDP.
It is a double-edged “celebrated.” The good news poses a challenge for us. It is good news because it shows hope, but the challenge is to create more compassionate society; a community that takes cares of the majority who still live in want: the lack of basic health care; a basic education system that needs all the support it can get from all sectors; more jobs, more sources of livelihood; decent housing.
These are all hungers, very basic hungers we need to respond to. But we must turn to Christ again and see how he responded or even why “. . . heart was moved with pity for they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
Out of the deep compassion for and with the people we have the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.
In 1986 after Edsa, Fr. Tony Lambino reflected on the people power phenomenon using this Gospel. He said the Edsa miracle was the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish—when people became a community of compassion, sharing with one another the little and everything they had. It was not you and us, but we as one community.
This is what we celebrate today. This is what we remember— that in the body and blood of Christ, in remembering this daily, at every Mass we open ourselves to the miracle, the miracle of compassion that will bring us together in love.