I’ve talked before about my Grandmother, and that she worked in the school cafeteria.  Actually, my whole family did - my grandfather was the custodian, my grandmother was over the cafeteria, and my mother worked for her.  The school was about 15 miles outside of Deming, and about 15 miles from the Mexican border – so it was out in the middle of nowhere.

The school was a k-6. A few of the kids were farm kids and pretty much didn’t do without anything.  The rest were poor. Often the only meal they had was the lunch provided by the school.  The rules they gave my grandmother were simple: She must use all the government commodities they sent out by the end of the year, and she mustn’t go over the allowed amount of food.  Other than that, she could change the menu however she needed.  So, she did.  I often think there was some creative bookkeeping done on her part, but it always balanced in the end.

There were about 200 students in the school, and she made sure there was always enough food for each child to have seconds if they wanted or needed it. Thirds – if it was a favorite like Pizza. None of the kids left hungry.

My grandmother never once bragged about what she did for them, never held it over their heads. When parents or other teachers would complement her about it, she would simply shrug and say something like, “We had extra and I didn’t want to throw it away.”

500 years ago, this year, St. Thomas of Villanova made his Religious profession – taking the vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. He reluctantly took on the office of Bishop some few years later, but refused to live the rich life of the bishops of his time. Instead, he took the money and gave to the poor, he even opened a soup kitchen of sorts and a shelter for the homeless there at his residence. And before he died, he made sure to sell the rest of his belongings and gave the money to the poor.

He understood that all that he had was nothing if it wasn’t used for the sake of others. That his love of God was hollow, if he didn’t love those around him and help them however he could.

Yet, he didn’t make a show of it. He would never announce what he was doing or mention it so listening ears would hear and spread it around. He didn’t let pride take these good works and destroy them.

In the Gospel, Jesus says, “Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Keep your deeds of mercy secret.”  In other words, do it because it needs done, not because you want praise or reward for doing it.

We are called to do the same.  We receive freely of God’s Word and Sacrament. We receive without cost, but we receive with a condition.  “Go and do what I have done.”  Take what you have received and give it to those in need.

“I would like to give money to the poor, but I don’t have much extra and I have to pay the bills.”  That is a good and valid point.  So, what can you do?

1 – If you take your lunch to work, pack a little extra.  An extra sandwich, small bag of chips, crackers.  And on the way to or from if you see someone in need, give it to them.

2- If you are going out to the store, or shopping, or whatever reason, take some small snacks along with you – peanut butter sandwich, chips, crackers, juice boxes…something.  And again, if you see someone in need or begging, you have something to give.

          Sadly, we don’t have to go far to find someone in need.

3- Donate to a place that directly feeds the homeless.  My favorite – Rosa’s Pizza in Philadelphia.  Why, because it doesn’t cost a whole lot.  $5 gives 5 people a free slice of pizza. But there many other good places out there – do some research and find one that touches your heart.  Maybe one that helps children or families.

What is the cost of an extra sandwich or bag of chips, or snack crackers? Or the cost of a slice of pizza?  For the person that receives it – the price is dear – it means their stomach won’t be rumbling for a while. Maybe they won’t have to try to sleep on an empty stomach.

We receive freely – it’s time we begin to give freely.

The day my mother passed away, her and I had a small argument.  We were going to go shopping, and when David and I went over, she wasn’t feeling well. She thought I was upset because we weren’t going shopping, but I was upset because she had insurance and the money and wouldn’t go to the doctor. A few minutes later she passed away, and I couldn’t tell her that I loved her and wasn’t mad.

Isaiah in our first reading tells us to “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.” In other words – don’t wait.

Don’t wait to tell God that you love him.

Don’t wait to accept his unconditional love and mercy

Don’t wait to do what is right and just.

 

The verses right before these in Isaiah Chapter 55 urge us to come to God.

          “All you who are thirsty, come to the water. You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!  Pay attention and come to me; listen, that you may have life.”

 

God is just about begging us to come closer to him. To rely on him, to trust him. 

Perhaps we feel we are not deserving of that love and mercy. How could God love me?

No one is deserving – no one! But God’s love is not based on how deserving we are. So he cries out to us to come to him, eat and drink, so that we might have life, and that we may find him and rest in his love

And when we ask why? How can this be?  God’s answer is very clear –

“my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. So high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”

God made us in his image, he made us to be his friends. We may not be able to understand why, but ultimately, does it matter if we do?  The closer we draw to him, the more we trust him, the more we learn about his ways and his thoughts.

 

Our Gospel today gives us a look inside God’s thoughts.   He doesn’t care if you started early in life or late in life, it doesn’t matter. You did what you were called to do – love God by loving one another.

It also shows us that it doesn’t matter how many saints have gone before us, our reward is the same – eternal life standing in God’s presence.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.”    Aben Ezra, a Jewish writer and commentator in the early 1100’s, and others interpret this as “seek the Lord in the place where he may be found.”

For them this was in the Temple.

 

For us?

Find him in the poor, the down trodden, the immigrants,

Find him in prayer and worship

Find him in the Word proclaimed and preached, and on the altar, freely given for you.

Find him in your heart – as St. Augustine says in his Confessions:

“For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there.”

 

So come, eat, drink.