The Ultimate Comfort Food
Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Preached on June 25-26, 2011 at Saint Mary Catholic Church, Perryville KY and Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Readings: Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a; Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58
Some people have fried Twinkies. Others munch on Doritos. I get the strawberry cheesequake blizzard from Dairy Queen. It’s what we call comfort food: the dessert, the snack, the meal that we would turn to when our day needs some major cheering up. When all else fails, a pint of ice cream, a slice of cold pizza, a bag of butter-drenched popcorn, or what-have-you brings that sought after consolation to the breaking heart and satisfaction to the empty stomach, and somehow it makes an unbearable day a lot more bearable.
I suppose it is part of our make-up as human beings. The food that we crave when we are hungry not only satisfies the emptiness in our bellies, it also can console us in our miseries, albeit for a short while. Food has the ability of captivating us by heightening our senses; it makes our mouths water, it thrills our sense of smell, it catches our eyes with its colors, it can give us a brain-freeze. Food—good food—is good, and some of it that can be bad for us—fried twinkies, Doritos, and DQ blizzards—somehow still has the ability to make us feel better.
No one else understands this more than the God who made us. A quick glance at the Sacred Scriptures will remind us of how concerned God has been throughout salvation history about the diet of His people. Don’t eat the fruit of that tree, He told Adam and Eve (cf. Gen 2:16-17; Gen. 3:2-3). Prepare unleavened bread and roast lamb for your Passover, He ordered the Israelites in Egypt (cf. Ex. 12:3-9). In the desert, He gave His people manna and quail from Heaven and water from the rock to sustain them in their journey to the Promised Land (cf. Ex. 16:11-15, 31; Ex. 17:5-6; Dt. 8:15-16). He sent an angel to take Habakkuk by the hair so that the prophet could share his bread and stew with the starving Daniel in the den of lions (cf. Dn. 14:33-39). And don’t get me started with the God-given dietary laws in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Leviticus. These and many other instances in the Scriptures bear witness to our God who nourishes the hungers of our bodies and feeds our starving hearts and souls. They show us “that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord” (cf. Dt. 8:3; Mt. 4:4).
It should not come as a surprise then that our Lord chose food—bread and wine consecrated by His words—to be the sacrament of His real presence to His people. The Eucharist is food; it retains the appearance, the smell, the taste, and the feel of food. But more so this food is the Body and Blood of Christ, the foretaste and promise of everlasting joy. Our Lord is profoundly sensitive to our human sensibilities that He deemed to give Himself to us in so tangible a manner such that our salvation is something now that we can see, smell, taste, touch, eat and drink. Yet no other food on earth can equal the nourishment that comes from this Supper of the Lord. The mere sight of this Bread of Life is enough to sustain many a famished soul that comes to worship and adore. Whoever partakes of Him will never hunger, and whoever believes in Him will never thirst (cf. Jn. 6:35).
The manna and the quail, the forbidden fruit of the tree, and the water from the rock that once filled our ancestors in faith eventually went stale and old. Those who ate and drank of them still died (cf. Jn. 6:58). But this Bread of Life is non-perishable: it endures for eternal life (Jn. 6:27) and “whoever eats [of it] will live forever” (Jn. 6:58).
Some people have fried Twinkies. Others munch on Doritos. I get the strawberry cheesequake blizzard from Dairy Queen. But ask any good Catholic and they will tell you that no other food group has the lasting comfort that Holy Communion alone can give. The Eucharist, after all, is our ultimate comfort food: it not only gives us the consolation of God, it unites us with the God of all consolation (cf. Jn. 6:56).