19th Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 12, 2018
The well-known humorist Andy Rooney once said that the two biggest sellers in any bookstore are the cookbooks and the diet books.
The cookbooks tell you how to prepare food. The diet books tell you how to avoid eating it.
A California scientist has calculated that the average person eats 16 times his or her own weight in a year. A horse eats only 8 times its weight.
The scientist concludes that if you want to lose weight, just eat like a horse. Orson Welles once said, “My doctor has advised me to give up those intimate little dinners for four, unless, of course, there are three other people eating with me.”
Underneath all of this humor, there is a real truth. We all enjoy food, we need it, and it is central to our lives.
Jesus as Food – In 2 Ways
In today’s gospel, Jesus talks of himself as food – as the bread of life. If we look closely at the passage, we hear that Jesus responds to our two basic needs for food.
1. Food for Growing
We need food first of all for growing.
An infant who weights 7 ½ pounds at birth or a sixth grader who is four feet eight inches tall – both of them need food to grow. Of course, sometimes we older adults continue to grow because of food, but in another way!
Today, Jesus says:“Whoever believes has eternal life.” “Whoever believes has life.”
Here Jesus is speaking of himself as the wisdom and word and revelation of God. He is food for us in this way.
So, he helps us to grow in our understanding of God. He helps us to grow in seeing God as He really is.
Jesus helps us to grow in how we are to relate to one another. Saint Paul lists some of these ways today – relating with kindness and compassion, and not with bitterness and malice.
And Jesus with his teaching and with the teaching of the Church down through the centuries helps us to grow in figuring out what to do in life’s complex situations, like end-of-life issues. So, Jesus as food helps us to grow: “Whoever believes will live.”
2. Food for Living
And then, we all know that we need food just for living.
For me, when it gets to late afternoon or early evening, I’m really hungry. I’m low on energy and really need something to eat to keep on going.
Well, today, Jesus says: “I am the living bread and whoever eats this bread will live forever.” “Whoever eats will live.”
Here Jesus is speaking of himself as sustenance and energy for living. He is food for us in this way too.
So, maybe we are burned out with our job, and this food keeps us going. Maybe we feel worn out by the long-term care of a loved one whom we want to care for, and this bread gives us the energy we need.
Maybe you are grieving the loss of your husband or wife, and the Eucharist gives you the sense of closeness – closeness with God. Maybe we are sick and filled with anxiety about where this is leading, and this food gives us comfort and strength.
Maybe we are dealing with hurts from the past and an injured, very low self-esteem, and the bread of life gives us God’s unconditional love and acceptance. So, Jesus, as food, helps us to live: “Whoever eats will live.”
I really like looking at Jesus and today’s gospel in this way.
Jesus is food for us. And we need spiritual food for the same reasons we need physical food – for growing and for living.
“Whoever believes will live.” “Whoever eats will live.”