Spiritual Food: the Body of Christ
Ok, let’s talk about food. Is there anyone here who doesn’t like food? Of course not! Eating is one of the universal pleasures of humanity.
Anyone who doesn’t like food doesn’t like breathing either. We need food to live! It is an intrinsic necessity for human life.
We were designed to eat and drink. Food is what nourishes and strengthens our bodies. We have to feed the machine. Without food, we die.
I am forgetful in many ways. But not with food! Not for long anyway. I don’t know about you, but if I miss a breakfast here, or a lunch there, somehow I always have a way of making up for lost time (or lost meals). Food is a pleasure. It is a necessity. And it is a privilege. There are many people who do not have enough food to live.
But there is one thing food most definitely is not – it is not an obligation. Eating is not just one more chore on our list of things to do. Nobody thinks of mealtime as an obligation. To the contrary, usually we look forward to our next opportunity for eating.
My favorite comedian Jim Gaffigan reminds us that we will even endure the company of people we don’t like, if there’s good food involved.
“It’s Bill’s birthday.”
“I can’t stand that guy.”
“There’s cake in the conference room.”
“Well I should say hello, see how’s he’s doing.”
Food is not an obligation for us. We joyfully partake of our own free will.
When I pour that first cup fresh hot coffee, I do not feel obligated to take my first sip. When I see a plate of scrambled eggs or a gooey delicious grilled cheese sandwich, I do not think, “Do I really have to eat that?” Every day, when I walk into the church office and I look at that enticing bowl of bite-sized Nestlé Crunch bars just sitting there on the counter, looking so lonely, I wish I could say that it is out of obligation – as a spiritual leader of this community – that I eat at least 2 or 3 of them every time I walk by. Alas, I cannot. The truth is I eat them joyfully, of my own free will.
We eat and we drink, not out of obligation, but for our own enjoyment, and survival.
Beloved, our body’s relationship with physical food is no different than our souls relationship with spiritual food. In the same way that we must feed our bodies, we also must feed our souls.
We must eat to live; and there is great enjoyment, and life, and love, found in the spiritual food that God offers to us in the gift of Himself, the body and blood of His Son in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar – the body of Christ, the spiritual food and drink of new and unending life.
God knows we like to eat. He made us this way.
In the garden God gave Adam and Eve — He gave humanity — an entire planet of delicious food all for their delight. But in the end it was their appetite that drew them away from God, as they ate of that one tree that God warned them would be harmful to them.
I wonder if God didn’t look down on us and think, “All right, so you really like to eat. Well, let’s try this, then.”
In Christ, God offers to us Himself in the fruit of the tree on Calvary. And He bids us, “Take. Eat. Take. Drink. Do this, in remembrance of me. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The spiritual food of Holy Communion is necessary for life; it is an incredible gift and privilege given to us for our great benefit. And we are no more obligated to partake of this sacred meal, than we are obligated to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
But the devil continually tries to plant seeds of obligation rooted in fear into the hearts of humanity. He tempts us to think of God’s gift of spiritual food as an obligation, a chore, something we must do so that God won’t slap us upside the head – something we must do to avoid God’s punishment.
The reality is that we punish ourselves by not responding to Our Lord’s invitation to “Take. Eat.”
Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
To really understand Our Lord’s meaning, we need merely to replace the words “flesh and blood” with “food and water”. Listen to this. Unless you eat food and drink water you have no life in you. This is probably one of the most basic, uncontroversial, undisputed, scientific truisms of human life. If you don’t eat or drink, you will die.
All life requires sustenance. The spiritual life is not different. Spiritual life requires spiritual food. Without spiritual food, we have no spiritual life. To not receive Our Lord’s body and blood, is to do so to our own malnourishment.
Think of how we have to will ourselves to refrain from eating regular food. Think of how difficult it is to go on a diet, to restrict our food portions, or the kinds of foods we eat. Think about how difficult it is to fast during Lent. Think of how our bodies yearn for food.
We know what it feels like when our stomachs are empty. It creates a natural desire within us. We are wired with that desire because it keeps us alive. We know what it feels like to be hungry. We know this from the very beginning of our lives.
In the same way that we were created to be physically fed, we were also created to be spiritually fed.
What does it mean to feel spiritually hungry? What does it mean to yearn for spiritual food? Have you ever suffered from spiritual hunger pains? Can you identify them when you feel them? Have you considered what it means to feed them?
As I write this, summer has arrived. So . . . time to stop eating right?
Of course not!
When summer vacation hits are we find any excuse we can to eat and drink, to celebrate. Why shouldn’t it be the same with the spiritual food of Our Lord’s body and blood?
When we visit family and friends out of state do we decide to fast for the week? No way! If anything we eat MORE when we travel! Why shouldn’t it be the same with the spiritual food of Our Lord’s body and blood?
It’s not uncommon to visit family and friends who perhaps aren’t Christians, or don’t go to church. And somehow it’s always easier to go with the flow, and not bother going to church ourselves. I know. I’ve been there.
But let’s think about it this way. If you visited a friend who was on a strict personal fast, would you join them in their fast during your visit? Probably not. I know I’d be like, “Hey, I know you’re not eating and everything, and that’s cool, I respect that . . . but can you recommend a good pizza joint or brewpub?” Why shouldn’t it be the same with the spiritual food of Our Lord’s body and blood?
Friends, if you travel this summer, there is no need to go on a spiritual fast! Your home church is not the only church where God dwells, or where Our Lord’s body and blood are blessed, broken and shared!
Beloved, we are what we eat. This old adage is abundantly true of Corpus Christi: the body of Christ. It is our communion with the body of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, which transforms us – which makes us into the body of Christ, the church!
Our Lord calls us to himself and bids us, “Take. Eat. Take. Drink.”
Let us continue to heed Our Lord’s most gracious invitation. Let us continue, not only to receive Christ’s body and blood, sacrificed for us, but let us do us with deeply grateful hearts, with thanksgiving, with Eucharistia!
We need him to live: he who is the very source of life and love.
Alleluia, Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, Alleluia!