August 15, 2009

Eat All You Can

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 6:51-58
“I am the living bread …whoever eats this bread will live forever”

Reading our gospel, the words “eat” and “drink” are repeated many times. John’s Chapter 6 is indeed about “eating and sustenance.” It is about the Holy Eucharist.

When we eat, our body assimilates the food for nourishment. We become what we eat. Vegetarians have healthy bodies and long life. Meat lovers have high level of cholesterol and prone to heart problem. While in the Eucharist, when we eat the body of Christ, we are transformed inside and gain eternal life! “Just as the Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” (John 6:57) Pope Benedict XVI once said, “The Eucharist is a dynamic Presence that grasps us and makes us His own.” In the Eucharistic celebration, we receive Jesus saving us now and we are fully united with Him. Such saving presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is offered to all, but without faith, the saving grace of the Eucharist evades us.

I used to enjoy smorgasbord dining before. Unlike ala carte dining where the choice of food is limited, smorgasbord offers a variety of delicious food. The wide range of food is too difficult to resist and we end up indulging, eating almost everything, and filling all available space in our stomach. But after we indulged and enjoyed, we end up blaming ourselves for eating too much. As always, regret comes last. We regret. And we comfort ourselves by saying, “Better luck next time.”

For the past three weeks, our Sunday gospel readings have revolved around Jesus offering a different manna to the Jews. After the multiplication of bread, Jesus offered his body as the bread from heaven - a food to eat. Unfortunately, we are not totally attracted to this bread. In the midst of the more alluring options being offered by the world, many of us prefer the bread (wealth, power, and fame) the world is offering; and ignore what Jesus is offering: union with Him and the Father and the promise of eternal life.

We do recognize the necessity of the material things in our life. But like anything else, anything excessive will not bring good to us. Moderation in eating lechon plus our deliberate decision to eat fish and vegetables will bring us health and long life. In the same way, dreaming a beautiful house, money, car and other luxuries is natural and commendable. But if our whole life revolves around these things and we forget God, we may end up gaining the world but lose our soul (Mark 8:36). We regret. But in this context, there’s no next time or second chance around.

Lets’ keep in mind that Alexander the Great, Napoleon and the Egyptians have established powerful empires but all have disappeared. Weddings of the rich and famous that we envied much were already forgotten; but the Sacrament of Eucharist that Jesus instituted remains with us. Believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Spiritual nourishment is always available to those who believe in Jesus as the bread of life. Eat all you can! It’s a guaranteed “soul satisfying experience.”

Survey says that only 10% of the Catholics attend Mass regularly. A good number of us go to Mass out of obligation and not out of devotion. We should examine and ask ourselves: Do I look forward to attend Mass? Is it an obligation or a devotion to me? What is the quality of my participation in the Mass? Do I feel incomplete without receiving communion? Do I have a “Eucharistic hunger?”

In an “eat all you can” restaurant, we eat to satisfy our palates. In the Eucharist, we eat to satisfy our souls. For without the Eucharistic meal, we are incomplete.

– Willy M. Samson,SJ
August 15, 2009 / Bacolod City

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