What nourishes you? I’ll give you a second . . . . What nourishes you?
When I think about that question, I realize that it’s really not so easy to answer. What nourishes me? I’m not so sure. It’s much easier to answer the question, “What do I feed myself?” Pretty much what most Ghanaians in the Diaspora feed themselves with, I think. But then I have to throw in a few of my many weaknesses, cookies, french fries, potato chips, red wine, ice cream – not exactly a litany of health-food items. Yes, I put a lot of pretty unhealthy stuff into my body, that’s why I’m trying to lose weight these days. And I’d like to say that I do it just once in a while.
But it’s so much more than that. Sometimes I feed myself on gossip – eager to hear some juicy tidbit (tit-bit) about someone else, or at times, being the one who shares that information. Sometimes I feed myself on the praise I get from others (from some of you) – accepting too much credit for something I’ve done or said. Sometimes I feed myself on TV shows or movies which don’t exactly emphasize the best in humanity. Sometimes I feed on my own laziness, or my own selfishness, or my own greed. And sometimes I feed on my need to be liked, or my need to avoid conflict, or my need to be right.
And not one of these things nourishes me.
But I feast on them anyway, somehow being willing to give-in to the temptation of the quick-fix, or the easiest path, or distractions that keep me from having to face some difficulty, challenge, or disappointment. My gut tells me that many of us fall into this trap, the trap of seeking out and feasting on all sorts of things that don’t really satisfy, or that really aren’t very good for us, things that are fleeting, things that don’t last, things that don’t mean anything in the big picture.
Yet, we pursue them nonetheless. And we wonder why we are still hungry.
But if we really think about it, the times when we are the most at peace, the most joyful, the most “alive”, are almost certainly those times when our relationships are the strongest, the healthiest, the most life-giving. Am I right? Is it that way for you? And the reason is relatively simple – although we don’t always act as if it is. You see, the greatest hunger we have, the one that is always lurking within us, no matter whether our life is going well or not, is love. We all need love, we need to both RECEIVE love, and maybe even more importantly GIVE love.
And the truth is that nothing else can take its place.
Of course, when we talk about love, we’re really talking about God, the One who is Love. Our need for love is a deep, profound, emptiness, a void, that can only be filled in one way, by being open to our God who wants to pour himself into that void. And the way that happens is both when we accept that love (in all its forms and through all the avenues God comes to us), and when we in turn share that love.
Love, my dear friends, is the only thing that truly nourishes, whether we understand that truth or not, whether we believe it or not. And that’s because God is Love. And this is precisely the way he made us, made us with a deep longing which keeps us thirsting for him, seeking him, and looking to encounter him and feel his embrace in every situation in which we find ourselves. God gave us this hunger to help keep us close to him, to keep us from straying too far from the path that leads to him, to life, to eternity.
And that takes us to the reason we are gathered here this day, to give thanks to God for the gift of himself in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, the gift of himself in this sacred meal. We’re here in these pews week after week without fail, hands or tongue extended to receive our Lord at this holy table.
And therein lies the trap. It’s precisely because we are here week after week that we can sort of “forget” what the Eucharist is all about. For many of us it might even feel “routine” or “ordinary”. Or worse yet – maybe we don’t really think about it at all. Maybe we receive our Lord without even realizing it. After all, we’re human.
And that’s why we celebrate this incredible feast (a solemnity, actually) every single year. It’s the Church’s way of reminding you and me of what a precious gift this Sacrament is, what a tremendous opportunity we have – but also what a tremendous challenge this Sacrament provides. You see, the Eucharist is not just some sort of private moment between ourselves and our God. Rather, it’s meant to nourish us, change us, transform us into something more than we were when we walked through these doors.
And that “something” is the Body of Christ. We receive the Body of Christ, so that we become more perfectly the Body of Christ – and bring that Christ to a world in desperate need of him – his mercy, his forgiveness, his compassion, his love.
But we can’t do any of that without the proper nourishment, without receiving in our hearts and minds and souls the food that matters more than any other, our Lord himself.
May we never take this Sacrament for granted by trying to satisfy ourselves with anything in place of God. Rather, may the hunger we feel deep within, lead us to be open to all the wonderful things God wants to fill us with.