Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Small IS beautiful

In Matthew's version of the feeding of the 5,000 men, notice who did the feeding.

"When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, 'This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.'

(Jesus) said to them, 'There is not need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.'
But they said to him, 'Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.'

Then he said, 'Bring them here to me,' and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.

They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over —twelve wicker baskets full. (Mt 14: 15-20)

The disciples wanted to send the people to nearby villages, but Jesus told them to do it themselves. Yes, he blessed and broke the bread - God will provide - but the actual feeding was small, local, and personal, not relying on others.

I think of this reading and of Catholic tradition when thinking about serving others and the role of government. Ministry should be as hands-on, personal, and local as possible. It should be individual and human and respectful, and should treat those served as individuals and humans and with respect.  Yes, government can have a role, should have a role, but it should be to support these local efforts, not creating all sorts of intrusive rules and bureaucracy that get in the way of meeting people's needs.

So rather than national health care, for example, we should have local programs. The government's role should be to help with funding with as little red tape as possible - perhaps block grants to be divided among the agencies. The people making decision should be the people that are directly providing the services.

The same goes for all the various forms of welfare, housing programs, food programs and pantries, and so on.

The people providing the services know the needs, know the people they are serving. They have relationships with those people. They are brothers and sisters.

And we can't simply rely on others to provide those services. We each should be helping in some way, based on our abilities and situations. It could be direct. It could be behind the scenes. It should not be just paying to have others do it. It must be personal.

As Christians, we are called to serve others.

For those others are Christ.

Pax et bonum

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