Monday, September 15, 2014

The Eucharist is NOT "Comfort Food"

(photo source: Getty)
Here in the Chicago area, we have been experiencing an early cold-snap, with temperatures we normally don't see for about another 6 weeks. Cooler weather typically brings out the cozy blankets, space heaters and puts me in the mood for cooking and baking.. and yes, it brings a craving for comfort food. The thought of a hearty soup when it gets down in the 30's at night and barely into the 60's by day is certainly more attractive than it was about a week ago when it was in the upper 80's and humid!  When we are cold, it's natural to seek comfort.

It strikes me that likewise, when one's discipleship is cool, there can be a tendency to look to God primarily for comfort, while avoiding the challenge of the Gospel, and to see the Eucharist as mere "comfort food." 

Jesus referred to himself as the "Bread of Life" and said that "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." (John 6:54) He promised eternal life to those who eat.  But what does it mean to allow Christ to remain in us? Is that just about being comforted?  Televangelist Joel Osteen famously preaches the Prosperity Gospel - that "God just wants you to be happy."  But is that what it is all about?

If Jesus is in us, that means all of him - and all of his life. Take a look at what Jesus asked of us. Jesus calls us to do as he has done - to wash feet and to sacrifice ourselves for others in his name. To preach, teach and baptize (evangelize).  He never said, "Come, sit in the pews and feed on me, and then go home and be comfortable."  He never said, "I just want you to be happy and to have everything you want." That is the trap we can fall into when our faith is just about seeking comfort - about us instead of about truly following Jesus Christ in all our thoughts and actions. He is not only the comforting Good Shepherd, but also the "narrow gate."

Instead of simply resting in him, Jesus asked us to live for the sake of the Kingdom - God's will for the world. He said “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  (Matthew 16:24-25)

And where do we go, what do we do when we follow Jesus? We heard the apostle Paul tell us in this weekend's second reading that Jesus "emptied himself,taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." (Phillipians 2:7-8)  He did that for us, not for himself.

Discipleship is about learning that obedience, even to death, even death on a cross. The true disciple does not receive the Eucharist as if it is comfort food. It should be received to embody a total union with the One who calls us to submit to the will of God, whatever that may be, and wherever it leads us. It's not about us. It's all about you, Jesus. 

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