Different foods have different effects on the body, mind and spirit.
There are foods believed to be good for the brain or for the bones. Other foods aid digestion and what we eat can support fitness, cause alertness or help to induce sleep.
Some foods while not considered to be the healthiest are essential at a party, and if you’re like me you will enjoy pizza as the perfect comfort food.
If a food is served in a particular way it may carry a meaning. A cake presented with candles indicates that a birthday is being celebrated and if the cake is made with dried fruit and covered with almond icing it’s probably for Christmas or a wedding.
The two first readings remind us that not everyone will understand or appreciate this food. Jesus’ teaching about the Eucharist as his body and blood is a challenge for those who have little desire to “understand what is the will of the Lord”.
Well, the “will of the Lord” is pretty clear in the gospel: “Jesus said to the crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The church cannot fairly be accused of inventing her teaching about the Eucharist. It is the undiluted teaching of Jesus, word for word: “my flesh is REAL food and my blood is REAL drink”. In the Eucharist therefore we have the REAL presence of Jesus with us.
This real food and drink, the body and blood of Jesus himself, is a food that brings an effect, a fruit that is the fulness of life both now and eternally.
Jesus’ promise directly addresses our human fear of death. We fear the death at the end of our earthly life and any illness or event that might indicate that our grasp on earthly life is fragile. We taste death every day, whenever we experience loss, suffering and anxiety. When a relationship struggles or the project that we have given time to fails we feel insecure and vulnerable precisely because we are tasting death.
The ultimate antidote to this fear is to shift our gaze to life. This is what we do every Sunday when we participate in the Mass. We gather with others who have come to the same wisdom, understanding; that nothing from the earth, none of the prevalent “isms” (capitalism, commercialism, materialism…) can satisfy our deepest desires.
The food that we receive in the Eucharist is the food of life, a communion with the divine that has the power to shift our gaze from our earthly limitations to the fulness of life. This life is eternal and abundant, but also tasted in the present moment when we seek communion with Jesus Christ and other people who share this vision of the fulness of life.
“The happiness you are seeking,
the happiness you have a right to enjoy
has a name and a face:
it is Jesus of Nazareth,
hidden in the Eucharist.
Only he gives the fulness of life to humanity.
With the Eucharist, therefore,
heaven comes down to earth,
the tomorrow of God descends into the present
and it is as if time
remains embraced by divine eternity.”
Pope Benedict XVI