When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,
“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”
This gospel scene was important to the early Church: they preserved it for us in all four gospels. Basically involves two parts: what we do, and what God does. We give what we have to God, and God multiplies it, brings it to fruition.
Joseph’s House shelter in Camden provides a clear illustration of this. This project began because a group of Catholics in the city got together to talk about what could be a “Catholic response” to homelessness in our community. There are some shelters in Camden, but not enough. And they all require working with a sometimes difficult system—-something particularly difficult for anyone with mental illness, addiction, or compromised communication skills. In addition, there is a limit to the amount of support any individual citizen can receive from the state for shelter.
The group met regularly, and talked and talked and talked. We considered all sorts of options, various possible buildings, worried about what the city would allow, searched for a focus. Talked and talked and talked. Finally the cofounder of a homeless program in Philadelphia who was helping us said, “You guys just have to do it. You are going to make mistakes, but just start.”
So we began in borrowed space, the broken down second floor hall of an old Lutheran church. We welcomed 35 nightly guests. We hoped we could have water and maybe coffee for people each night. But once we got started, and people——individuals, families, parishes, synagogues started donating food, and meals. Two young guys brought Chick-Filet for everyone each Tuesday. People wanted to part of the effort.
There is no doubt that the project still struggles—-we need a lot of support (especially money) to run the shelter. But as one member the original group that began meeting four and a half years ago, Fr. Bob McDermott, always says, “Money follows ministry.” That statement asserts that people want to support good works that make an impact for good in our world.
God is behind all inspirations to do good works, behind our discomfort and pain at seeing sisters and brothers suffering, homeless, stuck. God takes what we offer and increases, inspires support and growth for good. Now Joseph’s House provides shelter and a step up for many of our neighbors in distress. So many volunteers with DSW get to respond to God’s call by joining the work at the shelter, joining g all the effort offering shelter and food to sisters and brothers in need.
WE brought what we had to God and offered it to him to multiply and bring to fruition. God is at work in every longing, dreaming, urg to generosity and sacrifice, inspiration , unsettled feeling in face of pain or injustice.