I have the suspicion that we aren’t nearly hungry enough to truly appreciate what Jesus is doing for us. Things have changed so very much for us since his day.
In 2020, the USDA calculated that we spent 8.6% of our income, on average, for food. Consider that in 1900, just 120 years earlier, we spent 43% of our income on food. It was harder to produce, even though half of the country worked in agriculture, because mechanization of farms hadn’t happened yet. A horse and a plow to sow, a team of horses and a combine to harvest, home production and yet other horses and wagons to move to market just couldn’t compete for efficiency with our tractors, combines, food factories and trucks. Food preservation also was expensive. Many of our modern methods of lengthening the shelf life, and safeguarding from bacteria and spoilage hadn’t been discovered. Pickling, smoking, drying and salting, all available at the time, were labor intensive and required expensive ingredients.
For most of human history, life was hard and food was expensive. People were shorter, much thin- ner and vulnerable to sickness, and lived shorter lives. We duly credit advances in the medical field for our longer lifespans now. Many medical anthropologists, though, recognize that the greatest positive advance in lifespans was due to readily available and affordable calories.
Yes, the very bane of our modern waistlines, ready access to delectable, sweet or salty, crunchy or creamy calories, relates to our expanded lifespans. For the overwhelming majority of us there simply is no need to be hungry. We are far less likely to starve because of famine, than dieting. I’m not sure we can appreciate how topsy-turvy this is from earlier ages.
What Jesus did for the crowds in today’s Gospel was a stunner for the people involved. It’s amazing enough that a crowd that included 5,000 men all had a bite to eat. It’s something else, altogether, to say that this hungry, emaciated sickly crowd all “ate and were satisfied.”
Our Savior wants to feed us, desires to nourish our spirits with His very Self, given in the form of simple bread, and the celebratory drink of wine. Are we hungry enough to appreciate what He wants to do? And that is before we get to the utter sacredness of God’s outreach to us in this manner. Not only is Holy Communion nourishment. It’s God.
But it all seems too easy, doesn’t it, and perhaps too often? If we spend a great deal in the presence of anything “special,” it can begin to lose its luster. I can remember a scuba trip I went on, where lobster was the main course, I kid you not, every dinner for a week. By day four, I wanted nothing so much as a chicken breast. And here we are, on a daily basis if we want it, able to receive the Creator of the Cosmos.
Frankly, we have to work on keeping the Eucharist in the place it needs to be in our lives. We have the obligation to be alert to the intention and aware of the Eternal Consciousness that accompanies Communion
We have this day every year precisely to remind us of the infinite
value of what Jesus offers us.
Let’s be attentive!