I think I shared breakfast with Jesus this morning.
We had been to Willa's favorite "soda" – a tiny diner on the beach in this gritty tourist town. I chose a big Sunday breakfast – pork chop, "gallo pinto" (rice and beans), tortilla. We spoke with the owner as we sipped our cafes con leche, asking about his mother, an octogenarian who would still be running the place if life were up to her.
The breakfasts were huge, and the remains of mine were soon resting in the requisite styrofoam container. Next stop was Mass; I really hadn't counted on walking in with food to go. But I also was fixated on how good that chop would taste later in the day.
Between the diner and the church there is a lovely fountain surrounded by small palms and other tropical plants. It looks like my image of the biblical wells where women came to fill jars with water and share news. It also has one of the few drinking fountains in town. I realized how thirsty I was, and drank deeply.
As I stepped back to give Willa her turn, I noticed movement in the shadows of the plants behind the fountain. All I could see were eyes, and a smile, like the Cheshire Cat. The form took shape and words emerged from the deep foliage; despite my surprise I greeted the man behind the smile. Then he said,
"Can you give me something to eat?"
There was no hiding the styrofoam container; it shone bright white with heat and presence. I looked at Willa, gulped, and walked the around the well to hand it over. The young man stepped out of the vegetation, looking like many of the young men who get washed up on the shore of life every morning here.
He thanked me, and apologized – I'm not sure for what: For being poor and hungry? For taking my leftovers? For being in a position of having to beg for food? As we walked on toward church, my primary feeling was shame. That I had been afraid of him. That I had to think about it - I didn't want to let go of my leftovers. That they were not even my first-overs, but the scraps from my table. And that I did not have a fork to offer him a shred of dignity when he ate them.
I thought that was my spiritual shake-up moment for the day, but God is never done with me that easily. We arrived at church during the readings, and I heard from 1Cor 4:
"Brothers and sisters:
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ
and stewards of the mysteries of God.
for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts..."
"Steward of the mysteries of God" – I felt like that, handing over my food, as the man hidden in darkness walked out to lay my motives and heart in the bright sunlight.
The readings continued on to Matthew 6:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? . . .
Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear? . . .
...your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
. . . So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today."
I have been worrying about a lot of tomorrows in the past year. Yet I find myself in a lovely place with extra food in my hand. I meet Jesus coming out of the palm fronds, asking me (Jesus asking me!) for food. Usually I am the one asking, begging, from God.
The priest used the readings to underscore the community's need to care for one another. This town, like most in our world now, has a few people walking down the street with money to burn in their pockets, many others working hard to keep their heads above water, and countless others who are close to losing the struggle with the waves that crash over them.
The world is so out of balance, and tipping more than ever the last few weeks. I have no illusion that my small act can begin to rebalance the world. But it was what I could do today. I hope I eased his hunger for a bit – God knows he fed me. Yet still, I am thirsty.