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Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado, courtesy of Unsplash.

Dios aprieta pero no ahorca, “God may pinch but does not strangle.” This is a common reminder in Spanish to someone who is going through a hard time. Feeling the pinch of struggle may remind a person to lean into prayer, which provides the necessary spiritual fuel to overcome the struggle. The readings for this Sunday follow this logic and invite one to lean into a deep appetite for God. 

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. (Jn 6:51)

Liturgical day
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Readings
Dt 8:2-16, Ps 147, 1 Cor 10:16-17, Jn 6:51-58
Prayer

What can you do to awaken a spiritual hunger in your life?

What can you do to awaken a spiritual appetite within your church?

Can you recall a time when you felt spiritually nourished by the Eucharist?

 

This Sunday’s first reading reminds the reader of Israel’s time of wandering in the desert and the hardship the Israelites faced to arrive at their desired home. “The Lord guided you,” says Moses, “through the vast and terrible desert” (Dt 8:15). In the biblical experience, a period of desert hardship is constitutive of a life of faith. In Deuteronomy, Moses explains that this “pinch” is necessary “...in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live” (Dt 8:3). In the logic of the book of Deuteronomy, God allows for the affliction of hunger in order to later satiate with food from heaven, called manna. This “theological reflection in hindsight” reminds those who read the text that past suffering often has a continuing purpose.

Feeling the pinch of struggle may remind a person to lean into prayer, which provides the necessary spiritual fuel to overcome the struggle.

Throughout this passage from Deuteronomy, Moses emphasizes the spiritual value of a hunger for “every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord” (Dt 8:3). That holy appetite can easily be lost. The Bible gives several instances of times when Israel lost this sacred hunger. One such time occurred in Northern Kingdom of Israel under King Jeroboam II (782-753 BC). During this particular period Israel was an international power, but this fullness did not always correspond to fidelity to the word of God. The prophet Amos speaks of this time as a moment of vast wealth and extreme hunger. “Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock” (Am 6:4-7).

In this Sunday’s Gospel, the people quarrel over what it means to “feed” on the body and blood of Christ, asking, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52). The question is fair, but needs to be juxtaposed to their desire to be fed from heaven. Earlier, that same crowd begged Jesus to provide heavenly food like the manna Moses gave their ancestors, “Sir, give us this bread always” (Jn 6:34). Jesus knew how to take mundane hunger and awaken within it a hunger for the bread that gives life to the world. This is still the task of the church today: to awaken a life-giving appetite that is often strangled by an unsatisfying quest for comfort and extravagance. 

In the church, the faithful have the opportunity to turn their appetite in faith towards the Lamb of God, the Body and Blood of Christ. When, just before Communion, the assembly beholds the host and the priest prays, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world, blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb,” the whole church hears a “dinner invitation.” The response in faith requires a ready appetite. If one is already so full of attachments to the world, it will be hard to discover the hunger required for this awesome, yet humble feast. It may help to feel a pinch, to feel a hunger for the Word that “became flesh and lived among us” (Jn 1:14).

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