EDITORIAL – Table of hope, a hint of God

The Freeman

More than a thousand poor children and their parents shared lunch at a "table of hope" last Saturday with priests and bishops attending the 51st International Eucharistic Congress that Cebu is currently hosting. The sharing was an improvement on last year's national government initiative of putting Metro Manila's poor out of sight from the pope who was then visiting.

The sharing was, of course, but a brief break from the usual grind of scratch-and-pick existence. The humba, fried chicken and well-milled rice came and went all too swiftly. They were never meant to last as long as the memory. If only the IEC could happen everyday. But it does not. And that leaves the poor wondering whence cometh the next humba, fried chicken and well-milled rice.

But the fact that it happened at all gives the "table of hope" its reason for being. The sharing of beautiful and meaningful moments gives rise to longings for more. By more may be meant more interaction between the church and the poor. It might even mean children being inspired to challenge the limits of their ability that someday they may have more of what was never there before.

The IEC is either easy to understand or too deep to fathom. What it ultimately means depends on the individual, regardless of the direction the activity and its organizers intend to take. But one thing is clear - the IEC serves as a means to strengthen faith, and to keep what is good at the very center of each person. It is for this reason that it is for everybody, even the poor that knows no religious boundaries.

The church will not all the time be able to feed even just a third of those who came for the "table of hope." But it can always take up the slack with a healthy dose of food for the soul. The poor, more than ever, needs spiritual nourishment. The diseases that eat away at the soul and destroy the person that embodies it have become more numerous and virulent.

Drugs, sex abuse, abortion, hunger, ignorance -- these are just some of the many challenges that threaten to erode faith, an erosion that cannot be anchored to a stop by a single encounter over delicious food. But an encounter is nevertheless an opportunity, to reach out, and to be willing to be taken. Whenever sharing happens, between two people or among many, it is always a start.

There is a lot to be thankful, therefore, that no attempt was ever made to hide Cebu's share of blight that no one wants to claim responsibility for but which is actually the creation of all. Instead, the brief sharing happened. And for whatever that was worth, it was well worth the effort. God truly does not dwell only in the grandest of realities, but also in the smallest of possibilities.

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