Did you ever hear the phrase: “You are what you eat?” Some of you know that I have heart disease. After many years of taking in too much cholesterol, my heart turned into a big, plugged up ball of cholesterol, and I needed surgery to bypass the damaged parts. I became what I ate. When you talk to people who really know and appreciate good food, you get a sense that they understand the words: “You are what you eat.” They want the food they make and the food they eat to be the highest quality: fresh and nutritious ingredients, flavourful, beautifully presented – no two-minute microwave meals for them.
The readings today remind us that we are what we eat, both in a spiritual sense and in a physical sense. The first reading describes wisdom as a woman who built her house and then prepared a wonderful banquet. This was no ordinary meal. In those days, meat wasn’t eaten very often, and we hear that she slaughtered her animals. She had also mixed something into the wine to improve its flavour. So this was a special meal. Wisdom wanted to share herself with everyone. She invited the simple, and those without sense. The author may be making a distinction between wisdom and intelligence. You don’t have to be smart (school smart) to be wise, and in fact, many smart people suffer from a shortage of wisdom.
Wisdom tells us in the last verse to: “Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” She says we should walk in the way of insight. In other words, wisdom should affect our choices. You may have heard it said that: “A person’s life is determined by the choices they make.” How often have we sought the advice of wisdom when making choices in our lives? How many times have we knowingly made choices that were contrary to the advice of wisdom?
There is also a wonderful message in the verse that follows today’s first reading. It says: “Whoever corrects a scoffer wins abuse; whoever rebukes the wicked gets hurt. A scoffer who is rebuked will only hate you; the wise, when rebuked, will love you.” In other words, if you try to offer some corrective advice to someone who lacks wisdom, you’ll probably get an earful. If you offer the same advice to someone who is wise, they will be grateful. They won’t necessarily agree with you or your advice, but they will consider it and use it if it’s helpful. The one who lacks wisdom will only take offense; they can’t admit or confront their limitations.
We also see the theme of wisdom in the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He is telling them that they must live like wise people. Because he thought that the second coming of Jesus would be soon, there was some urgency in his message. He said: “… [make] the most of the time.” Again, make good choices. If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, you might remember Gandalf saying: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” When St. Paul encourages us to make good choices, he tells us to base our choices on an understanding of: “…the will of the Lord.” He says: “Look, you can go out and get drunk and carry on, or you can be filled with the Holy Spirit.” You fill yourself with “spirits” or with the Holy Spirit. Again, you are what you eat.
What is the basis of our choices? A couple of weeks ago, Fr. Paul talked about hedonism. Hedonism is a philosophy that argues that pleasure is the most important pursuit of humanity. In other words, “If it feels good, do it.” When St. Paul spoke against drunkenness and debauchery, he was telling the Ephesians that bad things were going on in his time. He said: “…the days are evil.” I think that kind of statement could be made of every time and every age – certainly our time. And yet we have choices. We can choose to miss Mass and play golf instead. We can pocket the money when the cashier accidently gives us too much change. OR NOT! If we can say of every time and every age: “…the days are evil,” we can also say of every time and every age: “…the days are blessed.” The difference, as St. Paul tells us, is in our choices. The fact that there is evil in the world doesn’t mean we have to choose evil.
In the Gospel, Jesus talks about the ultimate meal: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Eat my body, drink my blood.” This was hard for the people of his day to hear and it’s hard for us to hear. When Jesus invites us to eat his body and drink his blood, he is first telling us that he is truly human – he is flesh and blood. He is also describing himself to the people of his day as a victim. They were used to animals being slaughtered, and then eaten at a feast. He was foreshadowing his death – his sacrificial offering – and inviting us to join in this very special feast. And he was also inviting us to share in the Eucharist – his body and blood that we eat and drink.
He contrasted his body and blood with the manna. The manna came down from the sky – he came down from heaven. The people who ate manna would die – those who ate his body and blood would live forever – we will live forever! We will live forever, because when we eat his body and drink his blood, there is a special union. He said: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in them.” We are what we eat. This Eucharist is not something that disappears when we leave church, or when we leave the parking lot, or even on Boundary Road. When we eat his body and drink his blood, he stays with us – and we stay with him. This is incredible stuff!
So how do we respond? At this very Mass – today – Jesus is inviting us again to eat his body and drink his blood. When Father Paul raises the host and the chalice, and says the words of consecration, he is acting in the person of Christ. If we truly understood the miracle taking place at the moment of consecration, we would be overwhelmed, perhaps like the ecstasy that St. Teresa of Avila experience regularly during the Mass. She often returned from communion with tears streaming down her cheeks.
I’ve put these signs on the altar steps today so that when you come up to communion, you are reminded that you are what you eat – that Jesus is inviting you into this miracle – he’s inviting you to abide in him and he’s promising to abide in you.
And how should this influence our lives? We spoke about choices, and about wisdom. If Jesus abides in us, and we abide in Jesus when we eat his body and drink his blood, then we have within us that source of wisdom to guide our choices.
We Catholics have a great gift. We’ve been invited to eat the body and drink the blood of Christ – to join with Jesus in a very special way – to live in Christ, and for Christ to live in us. As we come to understand this union, we grow in wisdom – we understand how the things we choose can bring us closer to him. We come to understand that we are, indeed, what we eat.