Erma Bombeck once wrote in a column that she dreamed every volunteer in America had gotten on a ship and sailed to another country. She waved goodbye and breathed a sigh of relief. No longer would she be bothered by someone badgering her to help with some drive or project at school, work or the neighborhood.
But then, she noticed that the reception desk at the hospital was vacant and the children’s wing had no clowns and laughter. The blind listened for a friendly voice that never came and the crippled were imprisoned in wheelchairs that never moved. Flowers on church altars withered and died. Children in nurseries lifted their arms but there was no one there to hold them in love.
The search for cures for diseases was cancelled for volunteers’ lack of interest. Symphony halls and museums were dark and still since no one was willing to give of their time. Alcoholics, shut-ins, and the poor cried out in despair but no one came.
Erma continued, “I sought in my sleep to regain a glimpse of the Ship of Volunteers once more. It was to be my last glimpse of civilization….as we were meant to be.”
In today’s Gospel reading (Matt 15:29-37). Jesus cures the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute and many others. When he sees the crowds following him, he says, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry.” So Jesus takes seven loaves and a few fish and feeds the crowd.
What Jesus was already doing then, at the Last Supper, and today in our churches – He was feeding them with himself, the Bread of Life.
Years ago I counselled a couple every week for months who where having a great difficulty in their marriage. It became clear that I wanted the marriage to work more than the husband did. At out last session he reached out his hand and said, “Thank you for your time.” I didn’t say it, but I wanted to say to him: “I did not give you my time, I gave you myself.” That’s what Jesus did. That is what a true volunteer does.
This Advent Wednesday is a special day on our calendar. Each of us has some kind of fish and loaves to offer others. What’s yours?