Nourishment for Soul and Body: Our Catholic Charities Corpus Christi Food Drive

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Mk. 14:22

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me …

… Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you? … And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Mt. 25:34-40

Are there times, in each of our lives, when we “over­simplify” things? Perhaps things are more complicated than we would like them to be. At the same time, are there occasions when we “overcomplicate” things and maybe we need to “keep things simple”?

As you can see, I had trouble deciding which scripture quote to use to introduce this column, so I decided to “go with both.” I chose to use both passages because the first, from Mark’s Gospel, reminds us of the “words of institution” (of Jesus giving us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist), and the second, from “Matthew 25” helps to remind us why “we do what we do” here in our Diocese, especially on the Feast of Corpus Christi. I am not sure if the two quotes simplify or complicate the message, but I believe that having a Food Drive on the Feast of Corpus Christi reminds us in a beautiful (and simple) way, what it means to be members of the “One, Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.”

In my column at this time last year (see link below), on the occasion of our 10th annual Catholic Charities Corpus Christie Food Drive, I quoted from a famous homily, given by St. Augustine, in which he talks about the Body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion and encourages us to, “Be what you see; receive what you are.” In that column, I also described what I had learned about Catholic Charities in our Diocese and the history and purpose of the Corpus Christi food drive. I wrote about the ways in which our Catholic Charities leaders, our pastors, parishioners, parish leaders, and volunteers who work together on the Corpus Christi Food Drive make it such a blessing and success, with almost 100 percent of our parishes participating. For more information on the food drive, you can go to: Corpus Christi Food Drive — Catholic Charities, Diocese of Paterson — Clifton, New Jersey 

A few things have happened and changed during the past year with regard to the way in which we (institutionally) strive to live the words of the Gospel, especially “Matthew 25,” seeing Jesus in our brothers and sisters and striving to share our food and resources with those who are hungry and those in need. Thanks to the generosity of some major donors and people throughout our diocese, in their support of the Diocesan Ministries Appeal, we have begun the process of a full and major renovation of the building that houses our Father English Food Pantry in Paterson. These efforts will not only renovate a building, but they will allow us to offer even greater care and assistance to our sisters and brothers who come to the food pantry. The director of the Food Pantry, Carlos Roldan, often says that “we must do more than simply hand someone a bag of food.” He speaks passionately about how we must treat each of our brothers and sisters with the dignity each person deserves as a child of God. As I have learned on countless visits to the Father English Food Pantry (and to our other Catholic Charities food distribution programs in Morris and Sussex Counties), when someone comes to receive assistance with food, they often have other needs as well.

The renovation of the Father English building will allow us to collect, store, and distribute food in a healthier and more efficient way; it will also allow us to provide social services, job training, computer and English classes, and collect and distribute clothing and other donations. Simply put, the renovation of the Father English Center, will allow us to more effectively offer HOPE. Also, simply put, we could not do this without the love, sacrifice, and generosity, of the members of the One Body of Christ. Whether it be those who have made large gifts to the renovation of the Father English Center, those who have made gifts to the Diocesan Ministries Appeal, or those who donate (and help to collect donations) to the Corpus Christi Food Drive, each “act of Love” helps to build up the Body of Christ.

We are in a time of National Eucharistic Revival. From May 17 through July 16, there are four Eucharistic Pilgrimages taking place, from the North, South, East, and West, all traveling towards Indianapolis and leading to the National Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in Indianapolis from July 17–21. For more information on the pilgrimages, you can go to the National Eucharistic Congress website.

For many reasons, over recent decades, many Catholics seem to have lost their appreciation for the “real presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist. Some polls or surveys, taken within the past five years have claimed that perhaps as many as 70 percent of self-identified Catholics cannot articulate what the Church believes and teaches about the Eucharist, that the bread and wine offered at Mass become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, our Lord and God. The Feast of Corpus Christi is an opportunity to remember and reflect on what we believe about the Eucharist, what it means to receive Him in Holy Communion, and to adore Him in that “Most Blessed Sacrament.”

I have shared before that, as a college student, volunteering in a soup kitchen and homeless shelter in the South Bronx, run by the Missionaries of Charity, the community founded by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I learned an important lesson. Those sisters taught me what it meant to “see” the “same Jesus” present in the Blessed Sacrament by “seeing” and recognizing His presence in our brothers and sisters in need, the hungry and homeless. It’s not “either/or,” it’s “both/and.”

If you donate some food as part of the Catholic Charities Corpus Christie Food Drive, you might think that you are simply “doing a good deed,” but, if we stop and reflect, we may realize and better appreciate how important it is to have a food drive on the Feast of Corpus Christi.

I’ll make one final attempt to say it “as simply as possible”: On the day we focus on the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, by sharing our food with those who are hungry, we are recognizing the real presence of Jesus in our sisters and brothers. Or, as Jesus tells us Himself, in Matthew’s Gospel, “You did it for me.”

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