We might be tempted in this season of Lent to think more about removing food from our own mouths than putting food in the mouths of others.
After all, in Lent all over the world, one of the primary acts of penance we Catholics employ to bring our bodies into submission, and therefore into unity with our minds, is to seriously limit how much we eat.
But in this Year of Mercy we might do well to not only pay attention to how often we bring our hands to our mouths but how frequently we bring a hand full of bread to our neighbour.
And perhaps this dual action, both to suffer oneself while tending to the need and hunger of another, is nowhere better exemplified than in the prophet Elijah’s encounter with the widow in the desert.
Do you remember the story?
(Tired of reading, watch the video)
Here comes Elijah after a long journey, on the run in fact from his enemies, and he finds himself at the home of a widow who alone is caring for her dying son.
In her loneliness she is suffering, and in her poverty she alone is trying to bring some meagre food to her own mouth and that of the child God gave her.
But look at what the presence of the prophet does to her.
His need causes her to extend the hand outward and feed a stranger.
In the final analysis, her suffering and struggle is no excuse not to feed the hungry that come to her; and because she responds, because she gives what she has anyway, even as it hurts, God blesses her abundantly by curing her son in the most miraculous of ways.
In Lent it is easy to remind ourselves that we need to control what we eat;
…but this is the Year of Mercy,
…I wonder if we can trust God enough so that we feed those He sends us…
…even as it hurts.