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FAITH AND CULTURE | Living in the abundance of life

It might be difficult for us to imagine living in abundance, when we look at the hunger and violence in our neighborhoods and world. It is estimated that more than half a billion people in the world struggle with hunger and food insecurity. And while we may be tempted to think that lack of food and hunger affects underdeveloped countries and societies, the sad reality is that even countries with high income struggle with food shortages.

In the United States, for instance, like in other developed countries, food shortages and hunger are driven by job instability, poverty, food waste, discrimination and climate change. Most alarming is to know that in our own neighborhoods, children are more likely to be impacted by food insecurity. Already, we can see how the pandemic has only exacerbated this reality, especially for families stressed by the lack of stable employment.

A similar disquieting picture emerges when we look at the violence that confronts our global and local realities. Unlike previous generations who dealt more with political, cultural or economic forms of violence, we are now also being threatened by emerging forms of violence associated with new technological advances. And in our own backyards, different forms of violence continue to plague our lives. Far from being over, many in our communities are still facing high degrees of domestic, gang, gun and drug related violence.

Faced with these certitudes and many others like them in our lives, we can become discouraged and cynical about alternative visions or proposals for the common good. The idea that we can suddenly end world hunger or bring violence to a halt can appear out of place and unrealistic. There is something about these kinds of maladies that overwhelm us and make us feel insufficient. Like the disciples in the Gospel stories, we can quickly point to our own scarcity and note that there is not enough in our “baskets” to even begin to fix the troubles before us or feed those closest to us: “Send the people away, and they can go to the village to buy themselves some food…All we have with us are five loafs and two fish” (Matthew 14:13-21; John 6:1-14).

Yet, we also know that no amount of scarcity or violence can crush the resilience of the human spirit. Our walk with others has given us the opportunity to witness countless acts of kindness, generosity and grace. In our public spaces, for example, we have found servant leaders who show us what it means to confront violence with forgiveness and policy solutions. And when faced with the challenge of those who hunger and thirst, we have seen private and public institutions provide needed resources and aid. Far from sending people away, we have found graceful ways to draw closer to one another.

In faith, too, the closeness of grace and communion has been visible. Before us stands a historical community learning to go deeper into its roots and heart to share of its life more fully in Christ: “And all who shared the faith owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed” (Acts 2:44-45). And, as we navigate through our violence and hunger, we hold on to the transforming peace and abundance of life before us: “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst.” (John 6:35).

Orozco is executive director of human dignity and intercultural affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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