I could eat.

“I could eat,” is my favorite response to the question “Are you hungry?” I like this response because of how much I appreciate the act of taking a meal. There is something human about having a meal or sharing food with someone. Also it acknowledges the truth that sharing a meal and physical hunger are only weakly correlated. A meal is about so much more than simply meeting a caloric need. 

My family of origin and the family I married into understand the importance of sharing food. Okay that may be the understatement of the week for me. When I broke some rules and got in trouble my senior year of high school my punishment was that I had to be home for dinner every single night of the week. What genius. It was a painful punishment for an active and social high school kid and by it’s very nature I reconnected and my family sought to heal the broken relationship caused by my breaking of trust. 

In the gospel reading this Sunday we hear about another appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Jesus shows them his wounds and then asks for some food. They give him a baked fish and he eats in front them. What a strangely specific detail. Why would Luke include this aspect of the event? I think it is because of the importance for two things: Jesus’ bodily resurrection and the effects of sharing a meal. And I think they are related. 

It would be easy to misunderstand the resurrection. I think most of our culture does. It is assumed that Jesus was kind of like a ghost or some sort of spirit when he appeared to the disciples. The gospel writers go out of their way to demonstrate this isn’t the case. Jesus was physically, bodily resurrected. Luke even says the disciples thought he was a ghost, showing that they knew he was truly dead. Then they physically touch Jesus and even watch him eat food. Spirits don’t eat. Spirits don’t have wounds you can touch. Jesus does. The dead man really is alive again. 

Jesus eats more than once while appearing to his disciples. He eats cooked fish and breaks bread with his disciples. He wants to show them that sharing a communal meal is at the very center of Christian community. He want to show us that sharing a meal is at the center of our faith community as well. It is in these meals that Jesus’ identify is revealed to to those who don’t recognize him. It is in this meals that the reality of his bodily resurrection is confirmed. The post resurrection meals recorded in the gospels matter to the Church and to our faith. 

Mass isn’t extra. It isn’t nice that we get to do it (I mean, it is). Mass, a shared meal, is necessary for the Christian life. Mass is where we most vividly encounter the resurrected Jesus! Our communal meal is where we are fed and fortified and prepared to go try and save the world. Mass is where we realize our faith in the Father, resurrected Son, and Holy Spirit is real. Live it: Go to Mass. I get it. It may have been a while. You may not be going out to eat or going to Costco, traveling, or going to kids sporting events – in other words, avoiding crowds are all costs. But make this the first thing you do when you come back. You need Mass. 

Sunday Readings for April 18th, 2021.

The Good Word for August 2nd

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

I have a problem with being “Hangry.” Do you know the term “Hangry?” It’s when I miss a meal or it’s getting late for a meal and my blood sugar gets a little low. Suddenly I turn into the Hulk and explode in unnecessary, silly anger at little things. I’m like the people in those creative Snicker’s advertisements that say, “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry.” That is getting hangry.

Sounds like, in our first reading, the Israelites were a little hangry. God just freed them from slavery and they start complaining about not having food. In the gospel, Jesus rightly tells the crowds following him that they are eager to search for him, not because of his miracles or teaching, but because he fed them and they are hungry again.

Being fed is such a basic need. Those in the world with little or nearly no food suffer greatly because of it. Those of us who rarely miss a meal still feel the pangs of hunger from time to time. Obviously, we need to eat to live.

In the Gospel, Jesus teaches that there is an even more profound hunger than the hunger for food. He says we need God and that which will satisfy us for eternity even more than food. Peter Kreeft says in Prayer for Beginners, “Eating keeps your body alive, and prayer keeps your soul alive.”

When the crowds ask how they are to accomplish the works of God, Jesus answers, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” If we are going to do God’s work and get eternally fed, then we have to believe and trust in Jesus Christ.

Later in the Gospel, the crowds ask for the bread that comes from God, and Jesus tells them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Jesus is the only thing that will satisfy the hunger in our soul. Anything less than that leaves us hungry again. How do we satisfy this hunger? As Catholics it is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is bread from heaven. The Eucharist is Jesus himself. The Eucharist is the ultimate feast and the food that satisfies our soul.

Live It:
Go to Mass. Whether it is this weekend or a weekday Mass, head to Mass and before receiving the Eucharist simply pray, “Jesus feed my soul.”

Extra Credit: I highly recommend Peter Kreeft’s book “Prayer for Beginners” which you can order from here or your favorite online retailer. First HNOJ parishioner to ask or email me about it gets a free copy.