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Bible Reflections View Comments

Not What We Eat, But How and Why
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, August 19, 2012
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Eating and drinking are a significant part of our lives. At the most basic level, they’re necessary for our very survival as living creatures. But beyond that, they are intertwined with most of our social customs and much or our entertainment. Who would have thought there would be an entire television network devoted to food? The centrality of food and social interaction has been true for much of human civilization. It should come as no surprise, then, that our most essential connection to God has been transformed into food and drink.

Our first reading today talks about wisdom as a woman preparing a fine banquet for those who will sit at her table. And in the Gospel, Jesus continues his explanation of how he himself is the bread of life. In both cases, the bodily nourishment is incidental. What God truly seeks to nourish is our souls. But sometimes we can’t see past the surface appearance and other times we try to make things more complicated than they need to be.

Something about food customs elicits more squeamishness in us than nearly anything else. So we’re not surprised by the reaction to Jesus telling the people that they needed to eat his flesh and blood. But his unwillingness to explain should tip us off to the fact that it’s less a question of how than why. It becomes a matter of trust and ultimately faith. Even the great theologian Thomas Aquinas knew better than to ask how this might be. Some things simply need to be accepted, and then they become quite simple indeed. We know absolutely that this is far more significant to our lives than even the everyday food that sustains our bodies.

There is a wisdom in the practice of receiving First Communion at a young age. Children don’t question their need for food. From the day they’re born, they enter into a rhythm of being fed. It can be a delicate dance at times between hunger and the guiding hand of a loving parent. And more than one toddler has been as horrified by green beans as Jesus’ listeners were by his reference to flesh and blood. Beginning to receive communion while this nurturing, nourishing rhythm is still part of our lives makes it as much a part of who we are and how we live as eating and drinking our earthy food.

Only when we become adults do we take this for granted or try too hard to understand it with our complicating minds. There’s a difference between being wise and being knowledgeable. We do well to leave the difficult things to God and not make life harder than it needs to be. If we can complicate something as simple as eating and drinking, it’s no wonder we get tangled up in so many other things in our lives.

What matters most is not what we eat, but rather how we eat. While a gourmet meal can stand as a metaphor for the lavish love of God in giving us the Eucharist, the forms of bread and wine are simple, even spartan, and yet have an explosive power to nourish our souls beyond anything we could imagine. If we stay close to the Lord who feeds us and nourishes us each day, giving us the breath of life itself and the food and drink we need, we can’t go too far astray.  


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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog When we go through pain it is easy to feel abandoned or forgotten, but suffering doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us, He does. Even Jesus suffered, and He was completely without sin.

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