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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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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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