Last Sunday, the key idea was “signs” –
that is, which point us toward Jesus Christ, who is the destination.
This Sunday, we hear the Lord Jesus say:
“Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life.”
So I wondered: how do these two types of food compare?
Let’s start with “food that perishes” – that is, natural, ordinary food.
This food you and I can grow or raise ourselves, or we buy.
Although food is much easier to get than in Bible times,
It still costs real money and takes real work.
If we don’t eat it, we will die.
If we eat the wrong kind, we will get sick.
If you or I eat too much, we get fat.
But even if we eat the right natural food, in the right amount,
You and I will still die; because this natural life cannot go on forever.
Such is the “food that perishes.”
Now, what about the enduring food Jesus offers us?
You and I cannot produce it; we cannot prepare it. It is simply given.
What does it cost? I was going to say it’s free, and that’s true;
Yet in another sense, no food is more costly;
because what we “pay” to receive Jesus is, simply, our whole selves.
He gives himself entirely, and he demands the very same from us.
Our entire selves: let that sink in.
Many wonder why the Christian Faith is facing troubles in our time.
So many profess to be Christian, but don’t really live it.
Many live compartmentalized lives: one part of me prays,
one part of me believes, but another part of me cheats on my taxes,
or mistreats my spouse, or goes to dark places on the Internet,
or depends on alcohol to make me happy,
or is envious or controlling, and so on and so on.
Meanwhile there are so many who simply ignore the claims of Christ.
They don’t think they are rejecting him; but he’s a figure on a cross,
a picture on the wall, and maybe he gets a visit one or two times a year.
Why is this happening?
It is true that bad Christians – high or low – give scandal.
Nevertheless, the main reason people
do not continue with their Christian Faith, or do not accept it,
is because Jesus simply asks too much.
We might be willing to give him a part of us; but he demands ALL.
And so, by the way, this is why when we commit a mortal sin,
we must be reconciled – through confession –
before receiving the Eucharist.
Jesus is not content to have only part of us; he wants all!
So, yes, the “food that endures” is indeed costly.
What else about the food Jesus gives?
While natural food can only communicate natural life,
The food of Jesus provides supernatural life that never ends.
But without Jesus, you and I will be eternally hungry and empty,
and that is hell.
These are the two foods placed before us.
And Jesus says, you’re working hard for ordinary food; I understand.
Still, receive this Food; “work” for this Food I will give;
And the “work” we do for it, is to put our faith in Jesus;
as I said, to give him our entire selves, nothing held back.
Now, here is the bread and wine, used for Mass.*
Right now, as I hold it before you, this is “food that perishes”; ordinary, natural food.
In a few moments, before our eyes,
through the unworthy hands of a priest, who is also sinful man,
Jesus himself will change these ephemeral, earth-bound elements,
into that Food which he promised to give:
His very self, his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Now, do you see what I’m saying here?
This food, this perishable food, this is us!
You and I, like this bread and wine,
do not have supernatural life in ourselves;
and if God had not acted and entered time to share it,
we would spend eternity without supernatural life!
What Jesus does to the bread and wine on the altar,
He is determined to do to you and me!
This is what it means to receive the Eucharist;
As Saint Augustine said, we become what we receive.
I’m going to end with two questions; but don’t tell me the answer.
Don’t answer too quickly.
Look deep in your own heart, confront yourself,
and tell yourself the answer.
Think hard about whether you truly mean it.
Do you believe this change – from bread and wine,
into Jesus’ Body and Blood, his true and real Presence –
actually happens on this altar?
And do you believe that what Jesus does to bread and wine,
He can and he will – AND WILL! – do to you?
Jesus is the Food that Endures: Become what you receive!
* At this point in the homily, I held up a plate of hosts and a cruet of wine.