August 19, 2012 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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For me, this weekend’s readings seem to ask a simple question: Who are you trying to become? Since you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are looking to become a better Christian.  All of today’s readings center around what we choose to consume, both in body and Spirit, and who we become because of those choices.

In the first reading, wisdom is the entrée of choice. We are invited to a banquet prepared for the ‘simple’, a feast designed to encourage us to “forsake foolishness that you may live”.  True wisdom helps us recognize the importance of seeking God in our lives. As a response to the first reading, the Psalmist implores us to “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord”.  Once again, it is the ‘simple’, mentioned here as the ‘lowly’ and the ‘poor’, who seem best suited to receive this goodness. The lives of the ‘simple’ are not so cluttered that finding a home for God there becomes difficult.

In the second reading, from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we are again challenged to “watch carefully how you live” and “try to understand what is the will of God”.  In all three of these readings, it is into the very heart of God, described here as wisdom and goodness, that we are called.  Our overall health, it seems, depends on how close we move to the heart and will of our Lord. This, however, can be easier said than done. As you might already know, I am more than a little overweight. This is something I have struggled with for years. Very simply, I don’t take care of myself like I should. I don’t stay active and, more importantly, I have terrible eating habits. I don’t eat enough of the right things and eat too much of the wrong things.  These choices have caused me to put on a lot of weight, which puts unnecessary stress on my body. It is unhealthy, and it needs to change. This struggle, though, does give me a bit of a unique perspective on the effects of poor consumption. I know that if I exercised more and paid more attention to what I ate, I would be a healthier person, physically. No doubt. The same is true for our spiritual lives. If what we choose to feed our souls with is not of God, it cannot sustain us. There are even things we can choose that can cause us to experience a sort of spiritual death, the very opposite of life in God.  Many of these things are covered well by simply listing the seven deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

Today’s readings, and even my story, point to the importance of today’s Gospel reading.  In it, John presents a fascinating account of the moment Jesus identified himself as the “living bread that came down from heaven”.  He goes on to say that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.” Wow! Later in this same passage, Jesus says: “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”  The life Jesus is talking about is spiritual life, the life of our soul. Our spiritual health depends on our willingness to rid ourselves of those things in our lives that slowly destroy our souls and recommit ourselves (daily!) to allowing Jesus to change us from the inside out.

One time, in an effort to help me try to lose weight, my dad suggested that I write down everything I ate each day, both at meals and while snacking.  Maybe that’s something we can try in our daily lives. Keep track of the things you say, think, hear, do, watch, and interact with. How much of what we “consume” daily brings us closer to Christ and how much of it runs the risk of leading us away from him?  Christ wants us to trust him completely.  Giving Him that trust will allow us to become more like Christ.  This is true wisdom.  Are you ready to fully surrender to Jesus, allowing Jesus to define who you become?

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