Rising fuel and food prices affect us all. Not everyone, however, considers the effect that lifestyle choices and agricultural practices in the developed world might have on the rest of the world’s population.
Late last year the FAO (the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation) instigated a series of consultations on climate change and bioenergy leading to a high-level conference on world food security.
The conference, also known as the ‘Food Summit’, took place in Rome two months ago (June 3-5). Representing some 180 countries as well as the European Union, it adopted a Declaration on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy.
In brief, the declaration urges the maintaining of biodiversity and calls for greater investment in food and agriculture research. It calls for a reduction in trade barriers and market-distorting policies, as well international dialogue on biofuels.
Although there was less progress on the biofuel issue than the organisers had anticipated, the plight of the world’s hungry people is firmly on the global agenda.
What does a 21 st century UN Food Summit have to do with our gospel reflection? In the first reading from Isaiah, God tells the ‘thirsty’: ‘Listen and delight in rich food….Incline your ear, and come to me; listen that you may live’.
The gospel reading from Matthew tells a story of hungry people ‘hearing’, following Jesus, and enjoying an abundance of life-sustaining food. In other words, Matthew presents Jesus as the one who makes God’s transformative dream a reality for those who hunger and thirst, both literally and figuratively.
The passage echoes key aspects of Israel’s history. Jesus retreats to a ‘desert’ place, recalling the experience of God’s people in the wilderness of Sinai. Those who follow Jesus find life-restoring food in the desert, recalling the manna that God provided for the hungry in the Sinai desert.
Jesus has compassion for people struggling with disease and thirsting for the means to live. In biblical terms, compassion is always accompanied by action for restorative justice. Jesus heals the sick and creates a structure for the sharing of resources.
Faced with a hungry crowd, the disciples offer a simple solution: ‘Send them away’. Jesus refuses their solution and invites them instead to take some personal responsibility for the situation. The gospel invites us to attend to food security in our world. Informing ourselves on the issues might be a place to begin, and we can rely on our computer-literate youth to lead us to the sources of information and knowledge.
Veronica Lawson RSM