Growing up the son of a surgeon certainly has its perks. I never had to wait to get a doctor’s appointment, prescriptions for simple antibiotics were never a big deal, heck my dad even sewed my brother’s head back together on the living room couch after I hit him in the head with a baseball bat, but that’s a story for another time. Like anything though, the perks had their downside. For example unless there was a chance you were going to die, odds are dad dismissed your injury or illness as not really that important. While dad was usually right, our illness or injury was no big deal, every now and then a serious illness was overlooked.
In 8th grade, while playing goalie in a soccer game I dove for a ball as the attacker was on a breakaway. As the striker unleashed a shot I grabbed the ball and his foot hit the corner of my jaw. Standing up and pulling dirt out of my mouth, because I couldn’t spit, I knew something was wrong. But fear not, one of my teammate’s dad’s was a dentist and he assured my mom that I could not have broken my jaw and so I was told I was fine.
After two days my mom noticed that I wasn’t eating and took me to see a doctor. To this day I remember sitting in his office listening to him tell me there was no way I broke my jaw, but I was vindicated when he came back to show me that my jaw was in fact broken. Sadly, the joy of vindication was short lived when I learned I was stuck on a strictly liquid diet for 6 weeks.
At first a liquid diet seemed like a great idea. After all what 8th grader wouldn’t love to have milkshakes all the time for 6 weeks. But after a couple of days of only drinking milkshakes I knew I needed something else. No matter how many milkshakes I slurped down, I never felt full and I lived with constant hunger pains and headaches. With no other options I found myself reluctantly drinking meal supplement shakes. Now I don’t know if you have ever had either Ensure or Boost, but if you have you know that while they market it in many different flavors, it really only comes in one flavor, nasty. While I never got used to the taste of those shakes, I grew fond of them because they took away my hunger cravings and the hunger headaches allowing me to live my life to the fullest.
Friends, you and I are composed of a body and soul, thus it is essential that we feed both our physical bodies and our souls. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that He “is the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus is clear that God provides food to sustain our souls.
While at times we can be tempted to find the Mass boring, it is in this Mass that God provides our spiritual nourishment. There are countless people who leave the Catholic Church because they feel that they get nothing out of Mass. Yet when we walk away from the Mass, we walk away from the only perfect source of spiritual nourishment, Jesus Christ Himself in the Eucharist. After all no other Church can provide the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ and no other church even dares to claim that they do.
Friends, we can be tempted to settle for the spiritual milkshake, while God is holding out for us true nourishment. While, in 8th grade, I wanted the milkshake to nourish my physical body because I enjoyed it more, I came to realize that it didn’t satisfy me at all. So too in our spiritual lives we may feel tempted to turn towards a lesser form of nourishment, but in reality the only thing that will truly satisfy our souls is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, which we receive each time we receive Holy Communion. While those meal supplement shakes were boring, and I sometimes wanted a different kind of food, they provided the nourishment that I needed and while the Mass at times may seem boring it is the only sure way to nourish our souls on their journey to eternal life and overtime, if we faithfully embrace the Mass, we will find great meaning in it just as I came to appreciate the meal supplements.
It is really simple, if we take Jesus at His word in the Scriptures we have no choice but to admit that the Eucharist is truly our spiritual nourishment and we can find no excuse to skip Mass on Sunday, or worse to leave the Catholic Church, after all it is only the Catholic Church who claims to actually feed our immortal souls with the Body of Christ which Jesus tells us in today’s gospel is the food that will allow us to live forever. Even if at times we feel like settling for the lesser, more entertaining nourishment, we must come to the Catholic Church and receive our true sustenance in Holy Communion.