18th Sunday In Ordinary Time (A)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

I have to look back many years to a time when I was really hungry. It was not here in Mindanao. It was in the Visayas. I was in high school then and was vacationing with relatives. There was a drought. Rice was scarce and I remember that we had to dig for some wild yams and also ate some derivatives from palm trees. My cousins have gone through these times and they knew where to obtain such emergency food.

This month we have to deal with floods rather than famine in our area of the country. Due to the continuous rain and the rise of the rivers in the Maguindanao basin, thousands of people have left their homes and sought refuge in dry grounds. Until now feeding programs are being conducted by different church and civic groups as well as government agencies. It is not an easy matter to distribute food among people who are hungry. As any civic –minded volunteer knows, there is bound to be some tension and even fights when there are more recipients than available food.

Those familiar with disaster management procedures know that in the first few days what matters is food and clean water. People who have evacuated due to war, earthquake, fire or flood left their homes in a hurry, hardly bringing anything with them. They make do with makeshift shelters or evacuation centers to house themselves. Their immediate and short term concern would be survival. Later on in the process, rehabilitation or relocation may follow.

Action starter: Be a volunteer when need arises.

Sometimes the need of people is not matched by the donor agencies. Clothes and other items that were received may be bartered for badly needed food and potable water. Seedlings may be needed later in the rehabilitation process, but in the short term, food would be more important.

Those who have suffered deprivation would appreciate this invitation from the prophet Isaiah, “ All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come receive grain and eat” (Isaiah 55:1). In such dire circumstance, the response of the Lord Jesus was immediate, “Give them something to eat yourselves” (Mt. 15:16). He multiplied bread and fish for the hungry crowd.

In a way, all those who have volunteered their time, energy, and other resources to assist the victims of the floods these past month are the modern day disciples who help feed thousands. We do not have the statistics now about how many thousands of meals were prepared, or sacks of rice were distributed to so many flood victims. Some volunteers have prepared food packs and distributed them. Others cooked in the soup kitchens and served the long lines of hungry children and adults. Still others assisted in the dangerous task of de-clogging the rivers of floating debris.

Dire circumstances may be the opportunities to rise above our limitations and discover what is noble in us. As St. Paul said, such circumstances cannot separate us from the love of God, “Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us. For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”