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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Eating Right


Jesus again stresses the point of how He is the food that we need: I am the Bread of Life!  It doesn't get clearer than that for us.  We must rely on Christ, particularly in how we plan out our Sundays.  What does your Sunday routine look like?  Are you overbooked?  Do you let Sunday get filled up with all kinds of things that don't really give you rest or help you to pray?

At my old parish we had a good routine for Sundays: after Masses (and whatever else) we would have lunch then if possible do some exercise.  Finally around 4pm we would finally sit down to relax.  Fr. Bill would bring to the living/TV room his stack of newspapers: SB Tribune, Chicago Tribune, and NY Times (which he would get the only on Sundays).  He would sit in his lazy-boy trying to read, but his exhaustion would get the best of him.  He'd jokingly pretend he was reading even though his drooping head and snoring would always tell the real truth.  In the paper he really liked looking at the Travel section and seeing the beautiful places out in the world, particularly Europe, a few of which he was fortunate enough to visit.  I would often go to the book review and see what new books were being touted by the book "gurus" of today and then the best-sellers list where I could see what people themselves found important.  Week after week there were always on the list a collection of self-help books and diet books.  Not long ago I heard somewhere that the fact that there are so many of these books and always new ones is proof that they don't really work, at least by themselves.  There's not perfect solution, and we can't change by following a program unless we ourselves are transformed: we have to fix our desires and our passions and our goals in order to change our behaviors.  If losing weight is the goal, then it's important to get to the root of the problem: how we treat our bodies, including our lifestyle and eating right.

This concept of eating right plays into our spiritual life as well.  We are bodies and souls, and we feed our minds and our hearts all the time, and the really scary part is that we don't even know we're doing it: all the TV we watch, books we read, songs we listen to, they all have messages that feed our souls.  Are we feeding our souls just a bunch of junk food?  perhaps even toxic stuff?  The truth is that if we are going to get through the world with an intact faith, there is no way we can do it without eating right spiritually.  The journey is too long and too hard, and there are some real forces against us.  

We see this clearly in the background of our first reading today.  The prophet Elijah is on a journey across a desert because he is running for his life.  King Ahab of Israel married a pagan queen Jezebel, who had hundreds of prophets to worship Baal in Israel.  Elijah was the only prophet of the Lord at the time, and he called for a big show-down between the two sides on Mount Carmel.  After the Lord proved himself as the only true God, Elijah had the prophets wiped out on the spot, and when Jezebel hears of this, she sends her entire army after him.  So he has to run for his life.  We have forces chasing after us as well, and the journey is not easy, except that the Lord is on our side.  Elijah needed to eat and drink to sustain his body on the journey, and we must do the same for our souls.

The Eucharist is the most important way we can feed our souls.  It's the ultimate high-point of how God strengthens us for the journey of faith.  And that is why it is such a tragedy that many Catholics do not come to Mass regularly.  They aren't feeding their souls (at least in this most important way), and are thus letting them waste away.  It shouldn't be a surprise that if you don't go to Mass, you are very likely to lose your faith.  Even if you have a life of prayer and avoid many of the obvious evils in our culture, you are still like an athlete who isn't eating breakfast or lunch, only snacking here and there.  It isn't going to be enough to keep you going.  We need Jesus, brothers and sisters, and we should find it amazing how God, as Saint Francis says, was humble enough to become this small for us.

But receiving communion must be done with the right spiritual state.  If we take communion when we really need to go to confession or do not truly believe the Catholic faith, it will not help us.  Like Saint Paul says today, we can actually frustrate the work of God in our souls if we carry evil in our hearts: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.  All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.  And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.  One obvious remedy for this is Confession.  Go and confess your sins.  Another is forgiving others, as Paul mentions.  Remember, in the Our Father Jesus made it clear that we must forgive if we want to be forgiven.  Then the Eucharist can really have good effect on our spiritual lives.

As we feed our bodies, we need to feed our souls.  There are many in our world who don't do a good job of this, and probably every single one of us has room to improve it for ourselves.  As Jesus strengthens our souls, may we not be afraid to share that good news with others, particularly inviting them back to Mass if they have been away.  The Lord is merciful.

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