20th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
This is the fourth part of my homily series on the Eucharist. The Bread of Life discourse continues for a fifth week, but my reflection next week will be restricted to going to mass and playing golf in Canada. What is left is to ask why the Eucharist so powerful that it can fill our hungers.
I started listing to the cast recording of the musical “Hamilton” and as tends to happen with “Hamilton,” I have become a little obsessed. And there is no better song than “Satisfied” which details the thought that Alexander Hamilton would never achieve satisfaction and it serves as a sub-theme throughout the musical. For all his endeavors, his writing, his success and his astounding career, there was never a moment when he knew contentment. But that is not unique to him. It is really the human condition. We have tremendous energy surging in us, we are roiled in energy. It is true clearly of the young but also true of those who older who tell me that what they regret about physical limitation is that they cannot do more. We will never be satisfied.
It is due to the astounding human capacity – one so great that even God could inhabit humanity. It seems there is no end to our ability to wonder, imagine, change and hope. This energy separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Actually, there is too much energy, far more than we need to eat, walk and breathe and how we spend that energy will define the happiness of our life.
Ron Rolheiser speaks brilliantly about all this in his great book The Holy Longing. He also makes this point: what is the opposite of disease? Not health, but ease. (I know, I cannot believe I had never noticed that before either.)
Dis-ease is not a new problem created by information overload and new technology. It is ancient. Indeed, it is original. It is dis-ease that caused Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. God gave them just about everything, literally building a paradise for them, and they still wanted more. They reached for the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. They wanted to know what God knows and live God’s life. When God discovered their sin, they hid establishing the pattern we follow today. It is why the sin is original. We either try to be God or flee from God. We either judge people or expect them to be as we perceive them as if we created them. We want people to act in a manner that fits our plan and any deviation is seen as an affront. We are trying to be God, although I imagine God’s expectations are more tempered than ours. Or we give up and simply try to spend our immense energy in any way possible, often as we see, with disastrous results. Being God or fleeing God are the two poles we tend toward. And though we may not live at those poles, most every sin can be plotted somewhere along these paths.
What is the third way to spend our energy between these poles? It must be to be fed by God, the story of the Eucharist. Our creator knows about our energy, knows we were created for wonder. Jesus in a sense came to teach us how to spend the energy in a life-giving and satisfied way. He filled every space provided by human energy and converted it into love.
And Jesus Christ is not done giving. By offering himself continually at the altar, he feeds us with food that continually moves us to the best ways to satisfy those never ending hungers. His food moves us toward compassion and mercy, reconciliation and forgiveness and, above all, love. It is only love’s inexhaustible depth that can match our ever present hunger. We were designed to need God, to need love and Eucharist is the food of love.
My friend Tim once asked me what is my favorite part of mass and I think I disappointed him. I said when I hold the body of Christ and say, “Behold the Lamb of God; behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are they who are called to the supper of the Lord.” I think he was surprised because there is no “magic” at that moment, and I do a lot of cool stuff at the altar. But that is such a complete statement of what we believe. Behold the Lamb of God who feeds us, gives us hope and joy and peace. Behold the Lamb of God who loves us.
To borrow from next week’s Gospel, the crowd that had first followed him to hear his word, were fed by him, then continued to follow him looking for more food and had asked how they can accomplish the works of God, are alarmed by what Jesus says. That Jesus says they must literally (correct usage) eat his body and drink his blood has left a poor taste in their mouth and they leave him. Soon he is surrounded only by his own disciples and Jesus asks, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter responds for the rest of them, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In the words of Bishop Scharfenberger “Do not lose hope.” Christ is still asking us to stay, still entrusting the changing of the world and his church to the body of Christ, to be the hope and the difference our world is looking for. He is still feeding us, he is still present and we come to know him in the breaking of the bread.