Enough is a Banquet

Enough is a Banquet


Here is a link to today’s readings.

In my one-bedroom apartment, there are three closets and all of them are full. One of them is entirely filled with sweatshirts and sweaters of various weights, colors, and styles. The apartment used to have a fourth closet, which shutterstock_374630707was converted into a third entryway before I moved in. I wish it were still a closet. I’m sure it would be full.

Are you at all like me? We own so much! Too much. We may not be Imelda Marcos, who was notorious for her extravagant collection of shoes (shoes which have gone to waste), but we still own more than we need. The Irish have a beautiful saying: “Enough is a banquet.” Yet, we always want more than enough. We want more closets.

As the cold weather arrives here in Massachusetts, my closet full of sweatshirts accuses me. Jesus made himself very clear, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Luke 3:11). St. Basil the Great was more emphatic, saying, “When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.” In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus warn that “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Unlike me, my pastor is a man who lives this Gospel imperative. A follower of Dorothy Day, he spent time on sabbatical with the Catholic Workers in New York City, where Day herself lived. When he came back to the diocese, he was assigned to our inner-city parish and moved into a rectory that has 32 rooms and 7 bathrooms; and yet he was the only priest living there. He thought to himself, “This is a sin.” One morning, he woke up to the news that a homeless man had died of exposure to the elements while sleeping in the bushes just a block away from the rectory. He knew at that moment that he could no longer live alone in that house. When he spoke to my college students, he said, “I knew if I died that day, I wouldn’t be able to face my Judge. I wouldn’t have any answer for why someone died in the cold outside while I had an empty house full of warm rooms.” It jarred his conscience and he began transforming the rectory into a home for recovering addicts. Now, he lives in community with this group of 19 men, who also help run the Food for the Poor center at the parish.

The Gospel is so demanding, but it sounds so easy. Just share what you have. Why, then, as I stand in front of my closet full of sweatshirts do I have such difficulty choosing even one to give away? I am a thief, according to St. Basil. I need to let that sink in.

shutterstock_362125322Social sin has a terrible ripple effect. When we fail to help the poor and to work for greater economic justice, we contribute to crime, gang violence, sexual exploitation, and other dehumanizing activities. A recent report found that teenagers in the United States turn to selling drugs, shoplifting, and prostitution as ways to find food when they are living in dire poverty. To avoid the stigma of being a prostitute, some girls would have sex in exchange for treating them to dinner. One boy explained that girls could feel better that way, like it was more of a date and not sex work. When I read stories like this, my conscience is jarred as Fr. Madden’s was. How can I live in relative wealth, while my excess could help alleviate some of this desperation?

shutterstock_480217318The Gospel message is both comforting and extremely challenging. It isn’t easy to be a follower of Christ. If I keep my closet full of sweatshirts without any concern for the poor, then like Fr. Madden, I’m afraid to face my Judge. I am afraid of hearing, “I was naked, and you gave me no clothing” (Matt 25:43) and “Never will I forget a thing [you] have done!” It’s time to make some changes. A closet full of sweatshirts may seem like a small thing, but “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” It’s time to give some sweatshirts away…. before it’s too late. Enough is a banquet.

  • Marion Collins
    Posted at 22:58h, 17 September

    Well done again Kevin Dowd!
    I have heard you talk about “Stuff” -clothes, cookware, or memorabilia. I understand where you are as I have a whole household of “Stuff” that should be given to someone who truly needs it.
    I am impressed with the concrete examples you give us: clothing, shoes, food and heated shelter –so many challenges!
    Fr. John Madden is an outstanding example to all of us. I worked in a Rectory that had 27 rooms, 7 bathrooms and 1 Priest, a cook and a housekeeper. Now it is,at least, being used by the Pastor and two retired priests. It is obvious that Fr. Madden is living the Gospel Message. Actually living in community with recovering addicts must be a very enriching experience and he has them committed to working for the poor giving them a real focus and commitment. God bless Fr. Madden for his compassionate, generous conscience and determination to make it happen. What a wonderful witness he is for the City of Worcester”
    It was an eye-opener to think that keeping Stuff that should belong to others is a social sin with a terribly rippling effect.
    IT is TIME to quit keeping “Stuff” I do not need and call our local Shelter. Indeed, “Enough is a banquet”.
    MY gratitude to Kevin and Bayard.

  • Caroline McGuire
    Posted at 23:31h, 17 September

    It is a challenge, I try so hard to share what I have. I recently moved and gave away most of my furniture to others. I gave away many bags of clothing. Somehow, I find myself in my new home, still seeing clothes , blankets, food that I need to share with others. I pray forvthecstrength to act as Christ expects me to. I pray for the gift to see him in others- to feed the poor, clothe them, pray with them, . It is achallenge worthy of our effort- one sweatshirt at a time of that is what it takes.
    Thank you Kevin for bringing this to the attention of so many. God bless you.