Happy those concerned for the lowly and the poor (Psalm 41)
We live in a culture where if I feel hungry, I eat. If I am thirsty, I find a sink or water fountain. On rare occasions we cannot find food or water, but usually within the hour we find a way to curb our hunger or quench our thirst. Most of the world does not live like that. There are 842 million people suffering from hunger on a daily basis and 783 million people do not have access to safe drinking water (Statistics from Catholic Relief Services, 2013). These people feel hungry and that is what they have to cope with until there is food available. Severe hunger pangs may have become even intolerable by that point. One young woman shared her childhood story of what it felt like to be hungry:
I spent many days hungry, scared and not knowing where my next meal would come from or where I might be living on a particular day. Hunger limits you in a way that is difficult to describe because you are constantly thinking about getting food, keeping food and not knowing when you are going to eat next. It’s a vicious cycle. You want something better, but you don’t know how to get it. Food and housing are so fundamental to the human condition that not having those things paralyzes you and keeps you living hour by hour instead of thinking about what you would like to accomplish in a day, week, month or year. Hunger, poverty and homelessness stole my childhood. It took away my innocence and my sense of security.
Stories like these, while hard to hear, need to be told to help us all grow in awareness of the struggle to go without food. Pope Francis strongly urges us to “not fall into humiliating indifference that prevents us from seeing the misery of the world and the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity” (Misericordiae Vultus, #15). There is another way we can be more aware of their struggle and even unite ourselves to them. Sometimes we just need to feel like others feel and experience, even if just a little, what others experience in order to respond to their needs. What if we waited a little longer to eat or drink when we felt hunger or thirst? What if we thought of a person who was hungry or thirsty in that moment instead of our own hunger and thirst? Maybe that would lead us to pray for them as we imagine what they are suffering through. If we prayed for them every time our stomach growled and every time our mouth got dry, then we could be living in an indirect way the corporal works of mercy also in a spiritual way. The triggers of hunger and thirst become triggers to grow in mercy. If I truly allow myself to feel hungry and feel thirsty without trying to cancel it out right away, then how much quicker will I be in reaching out to alleviate someone else’s hunger and thirst?
My being thirsts for God, the living God (Psalm 42)
Spiritually we become more united to our brothers and sisters throughout the world through this little practice of solidarity, but it can also be a means of growing in our hunger and thirst for God. The Bible presents to us many analogies of how our hunger and thirst point to a deeper hunger and thirst for God. Jesus, thirsty after his journey in the desert, met the woman at the well who went there to draw water for herself on a hot day. He asked her for a drink and through their dialogue revealed that “everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). The woman even forgot about her thirst as she left her water jar there and left to share about him who gave her the water so that she may not be thirsty or have to keep coming to draw water (cf. John 4:15).
This woman embodies the Psalm that says,
As the deer longs for streams of water,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My being thirsts for God, the living God.
When can I go and see the face of God?
(Psalm 42: 1-2)
Our bodies daily express a hunger and a thirst for food and water. God wired us in a way that we would feel these body sensations so that we would take care of ourselves and give ourselves and others proper nourishment. If a person is lacking in these physiological triggers, something is not working properly. How much more is our spiritual hunger and thirst for God within His design to help us realize how much we need Him and His sacraments! If these spiritual triggers are lacking, then some sin or spiritual sickness may be causing disorder in our souls.
God wants to meet us in our hunger and thirst. We need to “learn to savor how good the Lord is” (Psalm 34: 6). Prayer is where we learn and savor as “He fills the hungry with good things and the rich He sends away empty” (Luke 1: 53). If God empties, it is so that He can fill. We are all hungry and thirsty spiritually and at times physically. May we recognize how our hunger and thirst can unite us to our suffering brothers and sisters and unite us all to the living God who alleviates our true hunger and our true thirst.
Suggestions for a concrete resolution
- Be patient with feelings of hunger and thirst and pray for the nearly billion people who are suffering from hunger and/or thirst.
- Other practical suggestions come from a Lisa Cotter, a regular blogger for FOCUS. To see her full list of suggestions for the Year of Mercy go to:
Feed the Hungry.
•Make sandwiches and pass them out to the homeless.
•Keep granola bars in your car to pass out to people in need at stoplights.
•Pick up leftovers at a local grocery store, bakery, or restaurant and deliver them to a food bank or homeless shelter.
•Take a friend out to lunch, your treat.
•Keep a list of local food banks and soup kitchens on hand to pass out to those you encounter around your town who could use such services.
•Volunteer at a food bank.
•Organize a Catholic Relief Services Food Fast and donate the proceeds to help farmers withstand drought in Malawi; $60.00 is all it takes.
•Serve at a soup kitchen.
•Prepare and take a meal to someone in your community who is seriously ill or welcoming home a newborn.
•Help out at a Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast.
•Give to or host a food drive.
Give Drink to the Thirsty.
•Pass out water bottles to the homeless.
•Have a “donations only” lemonade stand and use the proceeds to Improve the Water Supply in Ethiopia via Catholic Relief Services.
•Pay for the coffee of the person behind you at a coffee shop.
•Take a cold glass of water to a neighbor doing yard work.
•Donate baby formula to a local pregnancy help center.
•Work a drink station at a local charity race.