Last year I went on a priests retreat at Conception Abbey. The director of the retreat covered the Seven Deadly Sins. With each sin covered he would talk about what the antidote (virtue) was to overcome the sin. This weekend we celebrate the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist. Our retreat director saw the Eucharist as the antidote to gluttony.
One of the things he talked about regarding the sin of gluttony was that the best always gets mixed up with the most. Gluttony disrespects food and abuses it. It moves us into a notion of living to eat rather than eating to live. The Eucharist teaches us that less is more – simple bread and wine. At the altar we eat to live. Food is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
The retreat director suggested that we need to cultivate a sacramental behavior when we gather to eat. We need a table. We should not be in a hurry to eat. And we should never eat and run. Does that sound like an impossible task in your life? When we gather for the Eucharist we come together to remember. Other food is assimilated into the bodies of those who eat it and becomes a part of them; but those who are nourished by the Eucharist are assimilated into Jesus and thereby become a part of him. We remember who Jesus was, what he did, and who we are called to be.
Another issue the retreat director raised was the problem with world hunger. In Celebration Deacon Dick Folger talks about the problem with world hunger in relation to today’s Gospel.
The most challenging line in the Gospel is “Give them some food yourselves.” Our world population is at 7 billion, and more than 100 babies come into this world each minute. In that same minute, three die of starvation. Most people who die of starvation are children, their little eyes closing at the rate of 180 per hour, 4,320 per day. It adds up to more than 1.5 million deaths per year. Again, across the centuries, Jesus says to us, “Give them some food yourselves.”
In a country where obesity is a major health concern, the scripture presents an antidote – eat simply so others may simply eat. Jesus responded to the real hungers of the people of his time. How are we responding to the real hungers of people in our lives? As we are fed today, we are asked to go out and feed others.