By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published September 23, 2016
“Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”
The theme of sustenance is one that is woven throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, God feeds the Hebrews with manna. In the New Testament, gift of food is personified in the life and teachings of Jesus. He not only feeds the multitudes with the miracle of the loaves and fishes, he also speaks of himself as living bread, as that which we must take and eat to have life. This teaching is shockingly new, even scandalous, to those who heard him speak of it. Many walked away from him when he said that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
The disciples listened and stayed with him, not understanding the meaning of such strange words. But their trust in him and love for him overrode whatever quandaries they may have harbored about literally taking him into themselves as food.
And in our own time, the teaching to take and eat a living being must sound somewhat bizarre and perhaps still scandalous.
But it reveals something miraculous about ourselves and the God who lives within us.
In the Gospels, Jesus touches upon an attitude that is central to Christian discipleship: the willingness to give without asking anything back. To live in such a way that calculation, or profit, or having an upper hand or place, or scrambling for the best seat at a meal: these have no place in the life of a disciple. A disciple is to live his or her life following the mystery of Jesus who laid down his life for others and asked that we do the same.
Every morning, every day, at Mass we hear the words “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus, likened to a lamb, who will as such become living, sacrificial food for the life of this world … Jesus, who is within us as the hidden, life-giving leaven of life.
And we take that life into ourselves and become one body, and leave the physical body of the church into the larger bodies of families, work, cities and suburbs where there will be many who hunger for life. We are taken into those lives, hopefully with the courage to be food for others, to be willing to have our lives consumed by them, without weighing the consequences or the costs.
Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at www.HolySpiritMonasteryGifts.com.