“You should put away the old self of your former way of life…be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” (Cf. Sunday’s second reading: Ephesians 4:17, 20–24).
That’s what God's Word is demanding of us today. It’s difficult to put away our old selves. Our minds hold so many memories of the past - past loves, past hurts, past joys and past sufferings. When we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, or when we feel threatened or afraid, or cannot see a clear path ahead, consider the first lines from the First Reading we heard:
“The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our [BBQs] and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”
It often takes a rude awakening for us to realise, if we are truthful, that we have often misplaced our hunger for God, with a false god or a false memory (cf. again the Hebrews thinking of the food of Egypt and forgetting that they were slaves!).
Last week I reflected on the virtue of hope. But it also takes another virtue, that of humility, to approach Christ with trust, admitting in truth that we have often hungered not for Him, but for passing things. But this, admittedly, is easier said than done.
So, in a world so much saturated with the dripping fat of the most flavorful delights to our appetites and cravings, with billions of dollars pumped into thirty second advertising designed to unlock the basement of our natural cravings, how do we cultivate an appetite for Christ the Bread of Eternal Life?
And when you think of it. How does bread, in all its simplicity, compete with, for example, cake with all its trimming, additives and artificial coloring that tantalizes our senses? We profess that we believe in things visible and invisible, but yet it is the visible things that attract us more so than what we cannot see or feel.
When Christ calls himself the Bread of Life, it seems quite philosophical and academic - not as exciting as a choir singing Eagles Wings or You Raise me Up, and you get an instant emotional response.
So how do we, with God’s grace, develop and cultivate an appetite, a hunger that seeks union with God, Communion with Christ.
A few things come to mind.
First, it is important to instill in our children at an early age, a good habit of prayer. Every child should be able to recite, at least the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Why? Equipped with at least the memory of these heavenly words, when they get older and are tempted to despair or give up, these words, given to us by Christ Himself to pray, and the words spoken to Mary by an angel, can often direct our attention heavenward. That simple redirection of our focus in times of difficulty is oftentimes the “wetting of our appetites” for the enduring food of heaven.
Second. Pleasure is not a bad word. In its purest form, it evokes joy. It is important that we foster innocent and pure delights. For example, God has filled his world with so many natural wonders, miracles of nature that can not be captured in a youtube video or instagram. When was the last time you gazed with wonderment above you at the stars of heaven in the night sky, the miracle of a newborn life, the beautiful complexity of colors captured in a setting sun or the carefully blended flavours of true neapolitan ice cream?
Therefore foster innocent and pure delights like these. If you do not, then later, impure delights and immoral pleasures easily rush in to play with the mind - like cheese to a mouse who can not see the mousetrap because he is distracted by his own neediness.
When, with the help of God and with all our strength, we are able to push aside all the false pleasures, fast food solutions and distractions, then our soul’s desire will be free to seek the invisible Christ, and the joy of simple and pure satisfaction of tasting the Bread of Eternal Life. That is not simply the fulfillment of hope. That’s pure satisfaction. In this Eucharist, we get a little taste of that heaven, which is Christ Jesus our Lord.