3rd Week of Easter (M): Acts 6.8-15 and John 6.22-29
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
I don’t think it would surprise anyone here if I were to confess to a certain dedication to the culinary arts, especially the culinary art of eating! I grew up in a family of farmers where nothing went uncelebrated without a meal—usually some sort of deep-fried animal, a large portion of buttered starch, fresh garden veggies, lots of pies and cakes, and huge variety of casseroles made from condensed soups, canned onion rings, and something green or yellow. Obviously, my family’s dinner table is rarely allowed to rest. Likewise, the banquet table of the Lord is always heavily laden, never empty; His altar is always prepped to receive our sacrifice. How like the culinary arts is the art of loving and being loved by God!
Jesus tells those who find him across the sea that they are looking for him not b/c of any miracle he has done but b/c he fed them with loaves of bread. Perfectly understandable: why not follow the guy who can produce from practically nothing food for five thousand with some left over? But Jesus is not complimenting them here on their tenacity or wisdom. In fact, he’s using the occasion to make a point about the heavenly dinner table. He tells them that they have worked hard to find him and the daily loaves he gives them, but the Real Meal, the food that they truly seek will never perish; it will endure and endure for eternal life. Our daily bread fills our bellies, but it will grow stale and moldy over time. The Bread of Life fills our souls, and He is always fresh—freshly eternal, enduring Life!
Thinking back on my family’s dinner table, I have to think all the way back to the gardens we grew. We tilled the ground. Fertilized the soil. Planted the seed. Tended the rows to prevent life-draining weeds. We waited for rain. Harvested what we grew. And ate! Isn’t loving God and being loved by Him exactly like this? Given life as a gift, your ground, you carefully till what you have been given by God with fortitude and patience, so that you are free to receive mulch and water, fertilizer and seed; you are solidly grounded but loose enough to grow. You fertilize your life with powerful nutrients: spiritual reading, study and prayer, a solid life of fellowship and service, and regular sacrifice. God gives you the seeds of faith, hope, and love, planting them with an intense desire that you cultivate them and spread them again as seed in the gardens, the lives around you. Weeds grow even in good soil! You tend to them with regular “weeding,” answering the push of the Holy Spirit and going to confession when the weeds threaten to choke off your growth. You wait for rain, the blessings and graces of God, sent sometimes in torrents, sometimes in sprinkles, sometimes in fits of storms. But always sent. Waiting is the true art of the farmer. Now, it is time to harvest and celebrate, time to collect the benefits of God’s graces and your hard work, time to give thanks and, yes, time to eat!
And so we are here at the banquet table to eat the good fruits of Christ’s work for us. We have little more to do here than believe. That is our work while we are here. Having eaten, we take this enduring food, the Bread of Life, into the world and show everyone what it means to grow fat in Christ! Spiritually skinny Christians aren’t the best spokesmodels for Jesus. We need big, fat models, overweight saints and prophets, men and women grown obese on the Word and ready to preach!
Ours is not a dainty table of delicate snack food or greasy fast food or tasteless frozen food. Ours is the twenty-four hour/seven days a week, all-you-can-eat, ninety-nine cent seafood buffet that we eat with gratitude and in humility and we discover at the end of the night that Christ has already taken care of the bill. Tip included.