Foodbank Eucharist

Every Saturday morning a queue forms outside a church in Wembley. With their empty bags and shopping trolleys people wait, stoically, regardless of the weather. Meanwhile, in the church hall a team of volunteers - most of them women - receive and sort through a weekly delivery of food which is then distributed to the fifty or so people who rely on these donations in order to give themselves and their families some nutritious, filling meals, at least for the next few days.

I visited them the other week, arriving just before the Felix Project delivery. For several minutes we carried in and stacked up crate after crate of fresh fruit and vegetables, ready meals, smoothies, bread and snacks and pastries. As the food piled high my first thought was of Jesus feeding five thousand - although I quickly reminded myself that I was in fact looking at the leftovers which were gathered into baskets. This was all surplus food, no longer suitable for sale, which would otherwise be thrown away. Most had reached their sell-by dates, even though they still looked (and undoubtedly were) perfectly fresh and edible; others were in some way disfigured or squashed - less than the perfection consumers demand and supermarkets prefer to line their shelves with. 

Was there, I wondered, a correlation between this food - past its best; judged unpalatable and unwanted, and easily discarded - and the people, whom life has squashed and broken and systems easily discard, queuing up to receive it?  

By Marcin Mazur
Used with permission
That morning we had Marcin Mazur, the CBCEW photographer with us. The photos he took tell a sensitive, poignant story of fragility and resilience, stoicism and precariousness, and of community and care, compassion and dedication. And as I pored over them a few days later it became apparent that I had missed something on the day. There by the door through which we had carried the food; there on the wall beneath which some of the food was heaped... is a print of the Last Supper...

Here is Eucharist. 

Here is Jesus's great gift of himself, born of his unlimited love. Food and drink for those who are hungry, squashed and broken, weary and weak; bounty, largesse, an unfathomably generous self-donation. 

Here too is Eucharist, in an abundance of leftovers; not 'just enough', but more than enough, so that all could eat and be satisfied.  

And here so clearly is Eucharist... people who are a sacrament, a visible sign of lavish, limitless Love, of blessing and of brokenness; who are all the Body of Christ in its many guises. And at the heart of all this, a group of volunteers - most of them women - who quietly, unostentatiously, roll up their sleeves and Do this in memory of Me... 

On this feast of Corpus Christi I ponder and pray with all this, feeling replete, though aware of those who are not. And from this fullness I thank Christ for his enduring presence among us: in the Eucharist, in generosity, and in all who truly are his hands, and Heart and Body here on earth. 

*PS*: I've just read Pope Francis's Angelus address for today, which is about love, and service and fragility, and much of what I've been trying to say here. Do read it, and let it be food for this week's journey.