YOU BECOME WHAT YOU EAT: HOMILY FOR THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B) BY REV. FR. BONNIE NKEM ANUSIEM PhD
Food is one phenomenon that cuts across the globe. In every nation, culture, society and creed, people eat food. One key element is that food helps in maintaining overall physical well being. If we break this down further, food functions in maintaining proper health as well as in the prevention and cure of diseases. It is actually a natural propensity to desire to eat food when one is hungry. According to experts too what we eat has a lot to do with the responsiveness of our body metabolism
Beyond the basic need for food, there are various gradations or if you like hierarchy of food. Some are more nutritious than others. This immediately reminds me of my minor seminary days. Back then parents and relations were allowed to visit us once in a month ( that is the last Sunday of every month). Visiting days were actually very important to us then, primarily because parents and relations who visited brought specially prepared food from home which were actually nothing to compare to what we were given that time in the seminary. On those visiting days, few people ate from the refectory; these included either those who had no luck of being visited or those who could not be accommodated by the lucky ones who received visitors. To visit without food was same as not coming at all.
Back then one could perceive the aroma of different kinds of dishes coming from different corners. There were dishes from big cities, some from the urban areas, some from suburban areas, other from the rural areas, others still from inner villages! They also came in different food flasks or containers. In fact the packaging tells a lot about the origin and content. The truth was that some tasted better than others. There were some dishes that both the packaging and the aroma sent deplorable signals, while others were quiet tantalizing.
One important fact that struck me while reminiscing on this was that all the dishes both those that came from the urban areas and those from the inner villages finished at some point, In fact after the visiting day they became narrative topics and waste materials. This is simply a strong pointer to the fact that no matter how much food we eat now, we shall still be hungry afterwards. However in the interlocution with the Jews in the gospel today (John 6:51-58), our Lord Jesus Christ established that he has a kind of food of which if we eat, we will not only not hunger for any other food, we will from it derive eternal life. This food is actually his flesh and his blood, when we partake in them we become one with him because we are assimilated into him; in few words we become what we eat.
In the First reading (Proverbs 9:1-6), our Lord Jesus Christ is symbolized and personified as Wisdom. Wisdom is here seen as one who built a house (this house is understandable as the Church), erected seven pillars (we here call to mind the seven sacraments of the Church), slaughtered beasts, prepared wine and laid a table (here we make a link with the immolation of the lamb and the Eucharistic Sacrifice). Wisdom further dispatched the maidservants to invite all to come and eat bread and wine (the invitation to all the faithful to participate in the Holy Eucharist which is the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ together with his Soul and Divinity under the appearances of bread and wine). The gospel reading today can thus be seen as a concretization of the imagery presented in the first reading.
If the Jews had been attentively connected with the scriptures they could have understood that the wisdom described in the book of proverbs was really the one with them. Among other attributes of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is the fact that by partaking in eating of his body and drinking his blood we have the gift of eternal life; that is, we live forever. What more do we need? There are many today toiling and working to feed on food (like the ones we had back in the minor seminary) that will spoil and will never last (Jn. 6:27). Of what benefit is life without this eternal and life giving food (Mark 8:36; Matt 16:26).
Most of us obviously take time to buy the healthiest food ever; we consult doctors and nutritionists to prescribe for us the best of food. Most of us spend time and money to buy various commodities and stock same in our compartments, stores and refrigerators but nothing can be found in our spiritual compartments and stores. Most of us have the best bread for breakfast and the best wine for dinner but we cannot be found at the table of the banquet of eternal life. Some have been on indefinite vacation from the Holy Eucharist while observing strictly the conventional three square meals. We are individually challenged to ascertain the nature of the relationship we have with Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament; what he is telling the Jews today is at the same time a message for us. “Do you believe that he is really present with his body and blood?” “Do you partake in that Holy Communion and when last did you do so in a manner that is fitting?”
Happy Sunday and a blessed week ahead!