Hungry? God has food: Homily for Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Readings for Today

Today’s readings made me hungry.  Isaiah discusses rich foods and choice wines.  Jesus discusses feeding the great multitudes that followed him. But all this talk about food is not accidental.  We can easily see food is a comfortable thing.  When we are hungry, food fills. But what do you want to fill up with? For it is not just an empty stomach that can make us hungry, but also an empty soul.

And when our soul is empty, it is not as easy to fill it ourselves. We can try.  We can look to eating too much, drinking too much, working too hard, or seeking unhealthy physical comforts in something like pornography.  But the soul can only really be filled by Jesus. It is only when we acknowledge our hunger for something more, and invite Jesus into our lives that we get full.  What are you spiritually hungry for? Ask Jesus for spiritual food.  It fills.

Homily for Saturday, June 21, 2014

Readings for Today

Do not worry.  While it is easy to tell someone not to worry, the fact that Jesus needs to address this in today’s gospel, in concrete and specific ways, means that is not so easy to avoid worry and anxiety in our lives.  Unlike yesterday, where the concern seemed to be as much about those possessions that are not needed for survival, today’s concerns are practical and concrete. Today’s concerns are necessary. We need clothing, shelter, food.

And so it seems quite natural that people would be concerned about such things. Careful attention needs to be paid to what it is that Jesus is saying in today’s gospel. He certainly is not suggesting that we should not be concerned about those things that keep us alive. In fact, again and again in the Bible, we hear about the importance of caring for these basic needs when they are wanting either in our lives or in the lives of others.

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Homily for Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Today’s Readings

Are you hungry? Today’s readings focus a lot on food. We have a rather interesting approach to food in United States. Far too often, I think people in the US see a meal as that thing to rush through very quickly to get to the important part of life. After all, we are the people who invented fast food. But today’s readings provide an interesting contrast between the God who longs to Fill us more completely than we can possibly imagine, and people who have been filled spiritually, but have neglected the body.

To be sure, Isaiah writing in the first reading, describes a scene where everything is plentiful. There’s no concern about calories, or eating right or wrong foods. Rather God is so generous that whatever the body needs to be drawn into eternal salvation is given it. This is not just the giving of food that satisfies until the next meal, but rather concerns the giving of what is needed for eternal life. It is in that context that we hear the tremendous joy at the end of the reading. God has saved us!

In the Gospel, Desperate people with all sorts of calamities and illnesses come to Jesus for deep healing. Their suffering is so intense, but there first concern does not seem to be making sure they get enough to eat. Rather, it is to come to the person of Jesus to Leah’s feet, and to receive the tremendous healing he longs to give each one of us.

In fact, the question of food that Jesus poses to the disciples, is not primarily about what to eat. It is rather, to show us, through the disciples, God is one who can meet all our needs. It is not to suggest that we should ignore the physical concerns of our body. It is good for us here on earth to watch will be eat, to exercise, and to do those things that are necessary to help us to be healthy.

But it is to recognize that you and I are destined for greater things. For the correct living of our lives, open to the gift of life, by living so our hearts are ready to receive the tremendous gifts of God’s spirit, we are called to receive the gift of life that lasts forever.

Eating and Shopping Just Got a Whole Lot More Complicated

I read with interest Neil Steinberg’s column in the Chicago Sun-Times about boycotts.  In essence, he says they do not work because we really do not care.  As one who does try to think about the connection between business practices and morality, statements like this make me just a little bit sad.  I would like to think the real reason is because it is very complicated to make the right choice.  Here is what I mean.

Though I have never eaten at a Chick-Fil-A, I like fast food.  I work hard to limit how often I eat it, but I do give in from time to time.  (After three weeks in Rome, I must confess my first meal (admittedly at an airport) when I returned was at a Wendy’s.)  I like Starbuck’s coffee, though I am the first to admit that I can get pretty good coffee, for a lot less money, at home.

If I listened carefully to Senator Harry Reid, I should be outraged that US Olympic attire was made in China.  I guess it is ok that almost all other attire is made overseas, often in poor countries.  (Try to find clothing made in the United States.  I dare you.)  But I guess it is different if you are wearing what we normally wear at a major international sporting event.

I recently read an article (I forget where) encouraging me to buy sneakers that had little or no leather.  There was another article (ethicalshopping.com) that suggested there may not be as strong a connection as once thought between local shopping and reducing the carbon footprint.

And none of this touches the issue of trying to determine who owns whom.  I may think I am supporting a trendy looking new company, but it may in fact be owned by a large conglomerate.  I love Ben and Jerry’s, but it is owned by Unilever, which is not exactly the little business next door.  At the height of the BP oil spill, I learned that not all BP stations are owned by BP (or even use petroleum supplied by BP) and that other stations that had no outward sign of being owned by BP actually were.

The point is that it is really not that easy.  Shopping is complicated.  My impact on the world is something I find hard to be consistent with in my life.  For example, there is certainly the impact I have just by existing.  Then there is the impact I have in the way I treat others.  Then there is the impact I have with how I use my stuff.  Then there is the impact I have by supporting (or not) causes by where I eat and drink.  My mind is about to explode.

I guess I think all this boycotting and supporting is a way to make us all feel better.  I’ll show those left wing commies — I’ll eat at Chick-Fil-A.  I’ll show those right wing bigots — I drink at Starbuck’s.  Can I just get something to eat and drink?

Homily for Sunday, July 29, 2012 (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

The Readings for Today

A few weeks ago, I was in Rome. I was taking a class, at Loyola University, at their Rome Center in Monte Mario. During the orientation, we were advised that being in Italy was really a time where we would experience an assault on the senses. The phrase was meant to imply that all of our senses would be engaged during our time in Rome. There would be beautiful art, powerful architecture, fantastic smells of food cooking in the cafés, we would hear sounds of music and conversation and laughing. Specifically, each one of our senses would be engaged.

In particular, we were given specific instructions about understanding how different the culture was in Rome. Of particular importance, was the different understanding the Italian people have about meals. Meals are not simply an occasion for pushing food into our bodies. They are events. It is expected the meal will be savored and enjoyed. It is not the practice, to “turn tables”, that is to say, getting as many people into a restaurant in one evening as possible. Rather in the Italian understanding of food, the practice is simply to make sure that every patron enjoys their meal for as long as it takes.

Even with this understanding, one cannot go far in the city of Rome, without seeing a McDonald’s. There are signs which direct people to McDonald’s everywhere. (A little aside – I can only imagine that if I was in Rome more than three weeks, there might be times where a McDonald’s burger would hit the spot.

The class I attended at Loyola, was one where we examined the foundations of our educational curriculum. As part of the class, we were at various famous locations throughout Rome, to show how many of our educational beliefs today, have their foundations and roots in previous ages.

At the Spanish Steps, the presentation involved the coming together of cultures. That is because at the Spanish steps there is the home of an English poet, Spanish architecture, and a French church at the top of the steps, all of which is set in Rome. Of particular note, was the challenge when McDonald’s indicated it wished to locate a fast food franchise close to the Spanish Steps. The protest against this McDonalds, came from a movement known as the “slow food” movement. It is a group of people who are concerned that the leisurely event like pace of meals, is giving way to the much faster pace of American life.  It continues today.

You might be asking what this reminiscing about a trip to Rome has to do with today’s readings. But it is this attitude of “slow food” that I think can help each of us to understand what referring to the Eucharist as a meal really means. Think of the people in the gospel. These individuals have followed Jesus to an out-of-the-way place because the words he has spoken helped the people to find meaning in their lives.  They come to listen, not hoping that Jesus will be done in a hurry, but rather that they will here in his words a life changing reality.

How would things have been different, if the people who heard Jesus were pressed for time? Would they have seen in his actions and in his words, as we here at the end of the gospel, a sign that convinced them that he was the prophet who was to come. So attracted were they by the words of Jesus, they trudged to the middle of nowhere to hear him speak. One would expect that such a journey was not undertaken with the expectation that it would be over soon.

The people had seen the signs that Jesus had performed for the sick. And in seeing how Jesus gave hope to those who were sick, they found that hope might just be possible in their own lives. It was a time where they could examine the quality of their life, their relationship with God, and perhaps embrace a new direction for their lives.

This analogy of a meal, particularly when compared to the Eucharist, can give us pause. What is our attitude toward the meal of the Eucharist? Do we find ourselves with a “fast food” approach to Eucharist or “slow food” approach to Eucharist? That is to say, do we take the time in our own lives to pray, to reflect, to seek in new and dramatic ways that presence of Christ which constantly pours out new life to those with open hearts? Or, are we more concerned about fulfilling an obligation in getting to the parking lot so that we are not trapped for a long period of time at church?

This question is an important one for us to consider. We are challenged to examine our attitudes toward the Eucharist. It is about the quality of our relationship with God, and the connection between the worship that we engage in here at church, and the lives we live when we leave. More completely, do we strive to find at least some times in our lives, where we engage in a slow food attitude when it comes to prayer and our relationship with God?

If we so do, we might just discover these experiences of our lives can help us to see purpose and direction much more clearly. We can become more intentional about the way we live our lives. We can find, with appropriate reflection, we might just be more able to see the presence of Christ in those people with whom we have difficulty getting along. We can find, with appropriate reflection, we might just be able to see the presence of Christ in those people who are in need. We can find, with appropriate reflection that God is calling each one of us to be a sign that points to a deeper reality in the world in which we live.

For when the people saw the sign that Jesus had performed they were able to see him not simply as a human being but is that profit began to offer them this tremendous new life as the Messiah. His very life pointed to something else. His very life pointed to the divine reality which had always been present to them. But the sign he performed, made it much more clear to those individuals who witnessed this great sign that God was tremendously present in their lives.

And think of the disciples. Imagine Philip’s surprise when Jesus turned to him and said “Where can we buy enough food for these people to eat?”  Jesus knew it was not possible the disciples would have 200 days wages to buy food for everyone who was gathered. But he also knew, when people are attentive to the call of God, their hearts are filled with generosity. The miraculous multiplication of the loaves is made real with the generosity that imitates Christ.

In a world where there are still people without food, people who can’t afford to see a doctor, people who do not have adequate shelter, people whose lives are riddled with violence and war and strife, this generosity of the followers of Christ is needed more than ever.

But, recognizing the sign, and more importantly being the sign, cannot be done in a fast food environment. Such is the challenge of our age. Notice how news organizations evaluate immediately, without reflection, every little word is said and every event that happens. This is not after deep reflection, understanding and documentation, but in a rush to do so as quickly as possible, even if the information is not accurate. Examine for example the way in which the phrase uttered by Pres. Obama, “you didn’t build that”, has taken on a life of its own. Examine the quick response of a news reporter who connected the name James Holmes, the alleged shooter in the Aurora Colorado massacre, with a man of the same name who was a member of the tea party.

Imagine,  too, in our own lives, how quickly we do the same. Drawing inaccurate conclusions, not listening to one another, not hearing in our own lives and in our own hearts the very voice of God. We are called to the silence that enables us to become deeply aware of the abiding presence of Jesus Christ in our hearts. Such becomes the challenge of people committed to “slow food” liturgy.

Imagine what our lives would be like if we took a few moments each day to pray. Imagine what our lives would be like if we took a few moments each day to read the word of God. Imagine how our lives might change, if we spent a few moments in deep prayer with our God in thanksgiving and gratitude for all God does in our lives and the lives of others.

If we were able to do this, we too would become the signs to help our world to recognize the tremendously pervasive presence of Jesus Christ. They would see by the way in which we live our lives, the power of our love for God made manifest in our actions to help others, a deep imitation of Christ that has the power for eternal change.

And so as we leave here today, we too seek to go to that out-of-the-way place, where we too can encounter the Christ. With the many deeds of God’s generosity are multiplied, or the tremendous power of God’s grace is made manifest not only in our own lives but in our world, and most especially, where the loving presence of Christ becomes abundantly clear to all.