July 04, 2010
Soup Kitchen of the Lord
Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
Once upon a time, there was a happy village in a distant land. But a great famine came and the villagers, in their need to survive, became selfish. They secretly stored their food supply and nobody was willing to share with neighbors and friends. One day, a stranger arrived in the village. He went around asking for something to eat. As expected, nobody helped him. Finally, a poor woman welcomed him in her small house. She was so poor that she could only offer him water. He gladly accepted the offer and shared with her his secret. He said that he has a magic stone that could turn ordinary water into a nutritious and delicious soup enough to feed the whole village. The old woman hastily spread the news to her neighbors. Before long, the entire village was gathered outside her house. The stranger took out a round shiny stone and threw it into a large pot filled with water. The curious villagers brought firewood and kept an eye on the large cooking pot.
After several minutes, the Stone Soup boiled and the stranger tasted it. “Wow! This Stone Soup is great! But, of course, Stone Soup with a little cabbage would surely taste better.” A villager ran to his house and took out from hiding a cabbage and gave it to the stranger. “Wonderful!” the stranger exclaimed. “But some onions would perk up the taste of the cabbage in my Stone Soup!” Another villager came up with some onions and garlic for the soup. That started the whole thing. Everybody wanted to have the most delicious Stone Soup ever, and each one took out their hidden stock of ingredients – potatoes, carrots, beans, seasoning and all. That day, the villagers shared the most delicious meal ever. They wanted to buy the magic stone, but the stranger refused to sell it because he was still going to visit other villages. When the famine ended, the people of the village were grateful to him, not only for the finest soup they ever had, but also for having learned the beautiful lesson of generosity and sharing, especially in difficult circumstances. (Adapted from Fr. M. Ezeogu).
The stranger is like the disciples of Jesus. He had no traveling bag, no money and no food with him. But he had the magic stone. The stone did not have any magic power, but he used it to lead and encourage the people to share and be more generous. It would be very easy to look at the Gospel this Sunday simply as the sending of the disciples by Jesus. But if we look at his instructions, there is something more.
Jesus instructed his disciples: “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” Many people would think that Jesus was teaching them poverty or encouraging them to a life of rigorous asceticism. But this was not the case. Further along, he said: “The laborer deserves his payment.” In other words, he instructed them not to bring anything with them because he expects that those who will accept the Gospel will supply the things that the missionaries need – food, money, sandals, bags and all. This is similar to what happened in our story. The stranger brought nothing with him but the magic stone. The rest – water, firewood, potato, carrots and everything – were provided by the villagers themselves.
In short, the Gospel this Sunday is not only an instruction for the disciples on how to go about in their mission. It also intends to remind all of us of our duties as Christians. The Code of Canon Law states: “Christ’s faithful have the obligation to provide for the needs of the Church, so that the Church has available to it those things which are necessary for divine worship, for works of the apostolate and of charity and for the worthy support of its ministers” (canon 222, par. 1). When Jesus said, “The laborer deserves his wages,” he is also telling us, “Just as you pay the plumbers and carpenters who build your house, so also you must support my messengers who maintain the upkeep of your souls and build my Church.”
Perhaps a few statistical data may help us evaluate ourselves in this area. In a recent study, it was revealed that the average Catholic family donates 1% of its income to the church, while the family in the Presbyterian church gives 2.2% or more. This means Presbyterians give two times more than Catholics. But the Mormons are more generous. They give 10% of their income to the church, and dedicate two years of their lives working as missionaries. The two million Seventh Day Adventists, on the other hand, generate a bigger contribution for their missionary work than the 800 million Catholics all over the world.
The Catholic Church, the one founded by Jesus Christ himself, is in a very difficult situation. Parishes are losing people, the seminaries that are still open are half-empty, parochial schools and Catholic hospitals are rapidly disappearing, and many priests, for various reasons, leave the ministry. This scenario clearly tells us that the Church is losing by default, and it is because she does not get enough support from many of her members. As somebody said, “Catholics are always ready to give God all the credit, but not their cash!” So, to survive, many parishes embark on a whole range of fund raising activities. I know of a Filipino priest in a parish in New Jersey who was assigned by his pastor to personally conduct bingo four times a week.
“The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few.” Jesus sent not only the Twelve apostles; he also sent the seventy-two disciples. This symbolically indicates that he sends not only the priests but also the lay people to proclaim the message of salvation in the world. Let us be generous in supporting the Church, not only with our money, but also with our time, our talents and our energy so that we become active workers in the rich harvest of the Lord. Each one’s contribution, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, is an additional ingredient to a more nutritious and delightful soup in the kitchen of the Lord.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002