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When I thought about Jesus' words today, "food that perishes," I couldn't help but think of my refrigerator. Let's be real, as far as sanitation goes, you don't know what you're gonna get when you walk into a single guy's house. I mean, a teenage bedroom isn't much better, but they usually don't have free reign over the entire house so it just stays in their room. The single-adult male however, yikes. Especially their refrigerator, unless they cook often (I don't devote much time to that). So, over the past few years of living alone and spending most of my evenings out and about with high school and parish activities, I have discovered that almost any food will eventually perish, and then can take on new and exciting life in the wonderful ways of bacteria.
But when Jesus was speaking of "food that perishes," he wasn't talking about things that spoil - since the only thing that doesn't is the Twinkie that layed on a science teacher's shelf in Maine for 40 years and counting. Not physical food, then, but something else - a type of spiritual food, something that feeds our immaterial parts of ourselves: our souls and our minds. Our minds long for truth, they are made to eat it up, so to speak. G.K. Chesterton says "The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." If it doesn't do that, then the open mind is just plain foolish. We were made to cling to truth and find a spiritual satisfaction in that truth, a truth that is bigger than just facts because it goes beyond trivia questions to the deeper wisdom about life and eternity.
1. Jesus says "The truth will set you free," and indeed it does, even if it puts you in jail.
Whether it's Cardinal McCarick's recent demise in public light or the truth about Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae from 50 years ago that prophesied how contraception (the pill, etc.) will exploit women, destroy marriage and family, and make parents feel that children are burdens instead of blessings. People thought he was crazy then, but we can say with perfect hindsight that this Pope had God-given foresight as to where our culture would head. Hard truths are not always easy for us to take, just like turnips or brussel sprouts (without bacon!), but the truth will set you free.
Besides Truth, we were made sure something even more, and that is the deeper meaning of Jesus' words: "Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."
2. GOD IS DESIRING US. We often think of the Eucharist as God's fulfillment of our desire to be with Him. Indeed it is this. We were created by God with a special longing that can only be satisfied by Him alone. Our human nature is hard-wired for a "food" that goes beyond the natural world. Even beyond the spiritual food of truth that our souls hunger for. The desire for little truths ultimately lead us to larger ones, until we are swept up in the Lord alone as the only true satisfaction of our souls.
But we should also look at this Eucharist and see that God is desiring us. Remember that: God gave us the Eucharist and the other sacraments, God gave us His only-begotten Son, and opened heaven for us by His resurrection and ascension, He allows us to encounter Him in prayer, all because He wants to be with you. He can't wait for heaven. He brings heaven to earth. Yes, we indeed desire God. But if you look at the gift of the Eucharist, you must see that God desires you even more.
3. Little kids don't know what's good for them. In some ways, adults will say they don't even know what's good, period. I mean, looking back at some of the foods I really enjoyed, can make me a little squeemish. If we let kids choose what they wanted, they wouldn't eat their vegetables or go back to school or do their piano lessons or help around the house. We don't know what's good for us, and we are all a bit like those little kids who would rather listen to those more immediate, earthly desires rather than the deeper ones for truth, love, and God.
Prayer keeps us in touch with those deeper desires. So too does discipline, sacrifice, and a life of spent on those around us. Quiet yourself down each day, listen to that desire for God, and God's desire for you. Amen.