You Are What You Eat

May 30, 2005

John 6:51-58

You might have seen the movie called SUPER SIZE ME. The movie was created by a man named Morgan Spurlock, and it chronicled an unusual experiment that he performed over the course of a month. Spurlock wondered what would happen if he ate all of his meals at McDonald’s. So that is what he did. For an entire month, every day, three times a day, he drove up to the Golden Arches to dine. By the end of the month, he had gained 30 pounds, his cholesterol was off the charts, and his doctor was warning him that he had to change his eating habits if he intended to survive. This movie gives visual form to a saying that we have all heard. You are what you eat. If you eat junk, high choleric fatty foods, your health deteriorates. If you eat healthy, natural, nutritional foods, your health improves. You are what you eat.

This saying is good news for us today as we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, because it is on this day that we reflect on the marvelous gift of the Eucharist. Our belief is that when we eat the bread and wine of the Eucharist we take into ourselves the very life of Christ. We believe that as we weekly celebrate the Eucharist at this altar, the bread and wine is changed during the Eucharistic Prayer into the Body and Blood of Christ. The bread and wine is no longer bread and wine, but the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Risen Christ. We do not understand how this can happen. But it is a remarkable gift, because Christ becomes for us our food.

This is not a new idea. In the third century the great early Christian father Augustine wrote, “If you receive the Eucharist well, you are what you eat. Since you are the Body of Christ and his members, it is your mystery which you receive. As you come to communion, you hear the words ‘The Body of Christ’ and you answer ‘Amen’. Be, therefore, members of Christ that your ‘Amen’ may be true. Be what you see. Receive what you already are.”  In this profound paragraph, Augustine says that the Eucharist is nourishment to us for what we already are. We are already united to Christ through faith and baptism. Each time we receive this sacrament we grow in that shared life of Christ. We become more of the person that we already are.

So what then should this mystery of the Eucharist do for us?  How should we change as we receive the Eucharist from week to week? The Eucharist should give us more courage and more confidence.

When we receive the Eucharist with faith we grow in courage, because the one we receive is Christ who faced the evil of the world. Christ knew what betrayal was, what suffering was, what loss was, what death was. He faced those evils with courage in the Father who loved him. The Eucharist then helps us to deal with the trials of our own life. It gives us strength to deal with rejection, with sickness, even with death. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the very courage of Christ, the strength through which Christ was able to face his passion.

The Eucharist should also make us grow in confidence. The Christ who we receive is the Risen Christ, the Christ who now sits at the right hand of the Father, the Christ who is leading the world into God’s kingdom. The Risen Christ is a Christ of limitless power and of limitless love. Therefore we can receive this Christ in confidence, because his power and his strength will be with us. Therefore there will always be hope for the future.

Today then, on this Feast of Corpus Christi, let us bring the issues of our life, whatever they may be, to this table. Let is bring here the things that trouble us, the things that hurt us, the things that we are afraid of, all the things that preoccupy our minds. As we pray the Eucharistic Prayer in a few minutes, let your ‘Amen’ to that prayer be your affirmation that the bread and wine on this altar is becoming for us the Body and Blood of Christ. As you come forward and extend your hands to receive communion, let your ‘Amen’ be the affirmation that the Risen Jesus is becoming our food and drink. We are what we eat. So let us rejoice today. In this marvelous gift of the Eucharist we become courageous people, sharing in the very strength of Christ, which allows us to live today. In this holy meal we become confident people, sharing in the very power of the Risen Christ that always provides us with hope for tomorrow.


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