Image: Muktuk in Ooksuk (whale blubber and oil)
Deuteronomy 8.2-3, 14-16 | Psalm 147 | 1 Corinthians 10.16-17 | John 6.51-59
The food that we grow up with is an important part of our culture and it is part of what bonds us to the community in which we are raised. The aromas and flavors stay with us throughout our lives and when we are far away from the things we grew up with, just the smell of familiar food can bring us back to where we feel most at home.
In the far north Muktuk, the flesh of a whale, is the food that is desired. On the tundra it is caribou, and, in the forest, it is Moose. It does not matter where you go, everyone has the food that they love which identifies them as part of a particular community.
In today’s first reading Moses is speaking to a community, the Israelite community, after their 40-year desert journey, just before they finally enter the Promised Land.
When they left Egyptian slavery, they were a group of individuals fleeing their tyrant slave masters. They still did not know the God who was liberating them; what kind of worship to offer God; what manner of life God expected of them. Their first task was to follow Moses’ lead and get out from under the heavy hand of the Egyptians.
It is 40 years later, and the desert travelers have been through a lot together. Now they are a community. They suffered together and were tested all along the way. For those 40 years they would have had to work together if they were to survive. As a result, they had come to know, through their common struggle, one another, and their God. Moses reminds them of the mighty and constant deeds God performed on their behalf.
As they faced constant hardships during their desert trek God also fed them daily, with manna as He guided them through the desert. They were also fed on the word of God as they traveled. It was a new kind of nourishment they had not known previously.
In that Word they discovered that God’s heart is on the side of the enslaved, the uprooted and the broken. Moses asks the people to remember what God did for them when they were helpless. Like God, they are now called to respond to any stranger among them with the hospitality and care God said to them. “Show your love for the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”.
We are a community formed by God’s liberating Word, and nourished in a special way by the Body and Blood of Christ. This is our special food. It is what God has given to us as a way to remember and show our gratitude. We join our ancestors who ate manna in the desert and praised the Lord,
Jesus’ words about his flesh as food and his blood were not easy for his listeners to hear – it sounded as strange then as it does today. It is like the first time I looked at a bowl of Muktuk in Ooksuk or was given a caribou head to eat. We begin with a small taste. But once we come to know this food from Jesus once we “Taste and see that the Lord is good” we come to know how good it is for us. Over these last three months we have longed to taste it again.
We are nourished by Jesus when we believe in him and accept that he is God’s Son and that he gave his life for us so that we might have eternal life. In John’s Gospel eternal life begins now for the believer. Jesus already has that life from the Father and so he offers it to those who share in the meal that he gives, the meal of himself, his body and blood. We become what we eat, so eating the food that Jesus gives unites us to him in an intimate union. We who eat the body and blood of Jesus become like him and enjoy life everlasting.