Andre Dubus was a 20th century American novelist. He was also a Catholic. Several years ago, Dubus stopped his car on the Massachusetts Turnpike to help a family whose car was disabled. An oncoming car did not see them. It hit Dubus and the driver of the disabled car. It killed the driver of the disabled car; it paralyzed Dubus. The driver who caused the accident was never identified. After the accident, Dubus lived the rest of his life in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. His suffering was enormous. Through his suffering Dubus became an acclaimed short story writer. He won the prestigious MacArthur award, given each year to geniuses in America. Everything Dubus wrote wrestled with relationships: between men and women; between families; between men, women, and God. That is not surprising. He writes, “Living in the world as a cripple allows you to see more clearly the crippled hearts of some people whose bodies are whole and sound.”
In one of his short stories, he is in the kitchen with his wife. He scrambles eggs. They sit and eat. He writes, “She and I and the kitchen have become extraordinary. We are not simply eating; we are pausing in life’s march. Moreover, the meal offered and received is a sacrament that says, I am sharing food with you. It is all I can do, and it is everything. It’s a touch of eternity.”
How many times have you heard or read of the miraculous meal Jesus provided and shared with hungry, ordinary people. He pauses in his own life’s march. He is aware of need. He offers a meal. It is received. It is a touch of eternity. It is Passover time. The meal points to Jesus’ hour, to his death and resurrection, that moment in history when he becomes the source of abundant life for his first followers. He is abundant life for the world. In the Book of Kings, the prophet Elisha tells of a man with 20 loaves to distribute them to 100 people. He does. There is some food left over. Like Elisha, Jesus is God’s agent, but not with twenty loaves feeding one hundred people. Jesus has only five loaves and he feeds five thousand people. His generous love is not exclusive. It is for the entire world. Everyone is meant to be fed. He feeds us, abundantly, calling forth our oneness with him, and our oneness with each other. We all receive; we all are fed, by him who is our food. There are few words spoken on the mountain. “Have them sit down.” A blessing. Bread blessed, broken, shared. Finally, “Gather up the fragments.” Few words. Just action. I am sharing food with you. It is all I can do, and it is everything. It is a touch of eternity.
Life’s simple moments are extraordinary.
A moment shared.
A word of forgiveness.
A taste — of summer or of someone;
A gift; a presence, from your abundance
An awareness of people; awareness of need.
It may be all you can do; but it is everything. Sacraments — all.
Sacred signs. The simple moments you share, perhaps around the kitchen table. The touch, the taste, of life shared. The touch, the taste of forgiveness. The touch, the taste of love affirmed. Bread: blessed, broken, eaten. The fragments of our lives gathered up. He is sharing food with us. It is all he can do. Yet it is everything.
David McBriar, O.F.M.