"Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the Bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die." (Jn. 6:41-51)
Emphatic words of the prophet Jeremiah, written ages ago, reverberate in our communities today. These words, "Death has come up through our windows, has entered our citadels, to cut down children in the street, young people in the squares" (Jer. 9:21), describe the senseless killings reported daily in our country. The news necessitates the Church to stop the spiritual demons of violence. Children are dying in every culture. Without our children, the future for the Church will look bleak.
For this reason, as a Catholic, I rejoiced when reading how Father Michael Pfleger, the Pastor of Saint Sabina Church, and this faith community sponsored a gun payback program. With the aid of the benefactor, Tom Sondag, they removed 155 guns from the hands of young people under 25 in one day. They were also able to provide some of these young people with spiritual direction as well.
What has caught my eye, however, is how a Black Catholic community organized this event. And, this was not the first time. Granted, they received assistance from a donor, but they worked together to make sure this event took place. Money is a tool, but you need people to use the tool correctly. This church is actively trying to save our children in the streets by bringing them into the Church to meet Jesus. In contrast, some Church leaders with money are murmuring over Eucharist consistency. The Eucharist will always be sacred. No individual can stain the holiness of Jesus, the Giver of Life. On the other hand, millions of children are living without hope for tomorrow.
Father Pfleger, demonstrating pastoral care, nailed it when talking to our children, "if you're out here shooting on the streets, there's an expiration date on your freedom. Either it's a grave or it's a prison. And we don't want any of our kids going to either." Hopefully, other programs planned will continue to guide our youth to true freedom, the Bread of Life, Jesus, our peace amid the turmoil. These children's madness is like living in Chiraq, a term used in Chicago to denote more violence in Chicago than in Iraq. Let's not get it twisted here; many cities in the United States are grappling with unsanctioned violence. We need the Bread of Life for freedom today.
We desperately must avoid the mistakes of our ancestors who ate manna and died, as Jesus stated in our gospel. Jesus reminds his audience and us of the disobedience of the children of Israel. Their grumbling and lack of gratitude caused them to take their eyes off the Creator who provided a safe passage to freedom. Don't forget; some were willing to relinquish their freedom to return to bondage.
Therefore, on this Sunday of praying with John's gospel, let us trust Jesus to give us Our Daily Bread, the substance we need to be free to love one another. Let us "Stop murmuring among [ourselves]," as Jesus said, and find ways to feed our children the Bread of Life instead of documents. Feed our children peace instead of strife. Our children need love. They need freedom from a horrifying life. We must save our children from violence first so that they can say "Amen" when presented with these words, "Receive the Body of Christ."
The faith community of Saint Sabina is showing love to the youth in their community. We must continue to do the same by giving our children the freedom to live as children of God. St. Paul said in our second reading, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God ... be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma" (Eph. 4:30-5:2).
"I am the living Bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this Bread will live forever; and the Bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world" (Jn. 6:51).
Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS