Retreat Homily Sisters of Saint Francis and the Martyr St George Convent in Alton, IL
John 6, 41-51
What we know of the world comes to us primarily through vision. Our eyes, however, are sensitive only to that segment of the spectrum located between red and violet; the remaining 95 percent of all existing light consisting of cosmic, infrared, ultraviolet, gammas, and x-rays we cannot see. In other words, we only perceive 5 percent of the real world. You may find this little bit of science a bit odd when used to introduce these ten verses from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, but to me, it opens up the whole issue and touches the heart of this initial conflict and what Jesus says in response.
John tells us that the crowd is murmuring. They look at Jesus and all they can see is another man, one of their neighbors, the son of that carpenter, Joseph. To them there is nothing special. In fact, I think in their jealousy they do not want to see anything special. You can hear it in the comments. They think they know who he is and where he came from. Jesus challenges their little small and made-up minds, and his challenge touches on something wonderful about the gift of faith. In our secularized world, some think that faith makes people narrow, rigid and small minded. On the contrary, to those who really have faith, it expands vision and allows the faithful to see what others cannot see. Non-believers look at the Eucharist and they all they see is bread and common wine. They think they know what it is and where it came from. In the prayer of the Eucharist they see a long and boring ritual routine that is perhaps curious, but hardly profound. With faith however we see something dramatically different. We see a gift that mediates the presence of Jesus Christ who fills our lives with the deepest meaning and with purpose. What we see in the ritual is an exchange of gifts: the offering of the life of Jesus to the Father, and the offering of the Father’s Son to us. There is nothing here to murmur about. It ought to leave us silent and in awe.
People who eat along, people like me, and perhaps on occasion some of you know that no matter how delightful, rich in taste, and well prepared a meal can be, eating alone is not very pleasant. It might be just now and then, but eating alone usually ends up being a rather quick experience sometimes seasoned with a bit of loneliness. People who have lost a life-long spouse often tell me how difficult meal time is for them.
The truth is, meals are not simply about food, and people do not live on bread alone. Wonderful food and good drink are really meant to be the occasion for a much deeper, more personal nourishment. Beyond the nourishment of body, meals nourish the soul on conversation, friendship, laugher, shared life and love.
The connection between food and companionship is built into our humanity. There is more to eating than the food, more than nourishment for the body. Eating is also about relationship, nourishment of the soul. Consuming is always about communion: communion with what you eat and with whom you eat.
A meal like that always includes conversation, words spoken and shared. We listen to each other and we respond. We speak and we are spoken to with words of kindness, gratitude, and affection. This is our Eucharist. The Word we share, the Word made flesh, draws us into relationship and communion. To simply eat and drink while ignoring what the others at the table are saying, and there is no communion and no relationship. When there is tension around the table, the food is spoiled.
Important verbs sum it all up from these ten verses: Teach, Listen, Learn. So today we are drawn by the Father to Jesus Christ his son, and we are taught by God, so as to live in communion with God for all eternity. Let us get up and eat Sisters, or the journey will be too long for us.