Image: Muktuk, delicacy of the north
Some flavors are an acquired taste. On one of my first trips to an Arctic community I had the chance to sample muktuk, the blubber from a beluga whale. As I chewed on the rubbery morsel my host explained that muktuk can be dried, boiled or pan fried, then she added that most people from the south like to eat it covered in HP Sauce. Comfort food, the taste of home, is what we long for but if we never sample anything outside the range of our normal palate we will fail to appreciate the full richness life has to offer.
In our first reading today, the prophet Ezekiel is being offered something strange to eat. The Lord has called him to speak to the nation on God’s behalf. As he prepares for the mission the prophet is given a parchment scroll full of what seems to be bad news. Ezekiel is invited to put the dry dusty scroll in his mouth, to let all the words of woe and lamentation melt upon his tongue. It does not look very appetizing, but Ezekiel does what the Lord asks. To his great surprise it tastes delicious, sweet as honey.
What at first looks distasteful can, in fact, be delicious if we understand better what we are eating. To know how people of the north have survived in the harshest conditions known on the planet sustained by the nutrients and fuel found in the flesh of a whale gives a significance to the food that makes it something worth giving a chance. And to hear the testimony of young men who would turn down the taste of fried bacon for the flavor of their traditional food says that, given time, the flavor might grow on me as well.
Likewise, the scroll of which Ezekiel ate. It was filled with what at first seemed to be distasteful news of woe and lament. But given proper understanding it was truly a warning to the people of Israel to amend their ways, to get back on track and return to the covenant that had been formed with God. It was inviting them to give up their fast food diet of self-reliance, which was causing them to waste away. Instead they were being offered a feast that would truly sustain them.
Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Clare who was a protégé of Saint Francis of Assisi. Clare was looking for spiritual nourishment in her life and she found it in the preaching of St. Francis, particularly as he spoke about a life of poverty for the sake of the gospel. Clare renounced her worldly possessions taking up the call of the gospel and lived a life dedicated to prayer and to the radical poverty of which St. Francis spoke. In this she found not only her own sustenance but it became a beacon to many other women who felt called to this kind of life. Just before she died St. Clare received the approval for her order, the Order of Saint Clare or the Poor Clares as they are known.
Our responsorial psalm for today reminds us, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” Taste and see that the Lord is good. Sample what God is offering you. Open your self to the nourishment that the Lord provides.