Food for the Journey: Food for the beggar

by Diocese of Des Moines | January 1, 2023

John Huynh

The sight of folks around the metro standing on street medians, freeway exits, and stop light corners begging strangers for materials that they need to live is familiar to me.

I grew up in Vietnam and this was very much a reality there. If I’ve got any cash or change on me, I give it away as I was once reminded that the altar of the Lord is in the hands of the poor.

But more importantly, I give because I know that what I have is purely gift. I’ve done nothing to deserve even my own existence, much less the loving people in my life and the material belongings I possess. Everything that is mine is truly a gift that I have received, some by pure passivity and some by cooperating with God’s grace through discernment.

I’m reminded of this most often when I attend Mass. When we come to the Mass, it is not that we have gathered to do something, but that we have gathered because something has been done for us and will be done for us. Christ’s death and resurrection has rebuilt a bridge once completely destroyed and restored our entry into the divine life; this is what has been done for us.

Our reception of the body and blood of our Lord under the appearances of bread and wine transforms us into people of the Good News. We leave the Mass and enter our daily living proclaiming Jesus’ redeeming love and peace by our actions and words.

This is what the Eucharist does to us.

But what the Eucharist does to us can only be fully realized if we come to the Eucharistic feast as beggars and not buyers.

In my younger years, I found myself choosing this or that Mass to attend because of how much shorter one Mass was than the other. I, and I suspect many others, have found ourselves wondering if we should switch up parishes because of a certain homily, or the way the Mass is “done,” or if we don’t like the priest, or if some people in the parish are bothersome. The list goes on and on.

This way of thinking is the buyer’s way of thinking: “If they don’t have what suits me, then I’ll just find another place that has it.”

Yet, when we come to the altar of the Lord, we are beggars who have done nothing to receive such lavish mercy. The questions we should consider when we come to Mass are: 1. Am I willing to be gathered outside of my comfort so that the Lord may comfort me? 2. Am I willing to abandon my own thoughts to take on the mind of Christ?

Truly, my friends, in order to abandon our worldly home and inherit the Kingdom of God we must become beggars who rely on the boundless generosity of an ever-loving God made most real to us in the Eucharist. Let us come and beg for this heavenly food weekly, if not daily.

John Huynh is the diocesan director of Faith Journey. He can be reached at or 515-237-5006.

Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines, created in 1911, serves people over a 12,446 square mile area in the southwestern quadrant of Iowa, including 23 counties.