You Are What You Eat!Fr. Barnabas Powell
“You are what you eat.” So goes the the saying that has at times served as a means to get people to have better diets, and a way for philosophers to reduce the human person to merely a thinking animal, and even to theologians trying to have folks consider the profound teaches of the Eucharist.
Regardless how the phrase is used, the biological truth is we have to take in nourishment to sustain the functioning of our bodies. We have to eat to stay alive.
For the vast amount of history, before the modern industrial revolution, the search for food and “daily bread” was at the top of the daily priorities of the vast amount of humans on the planet. In fact, for most of human history, eating every day and eating well was always reserved for the very rich and powerful.
In the modern world and especially in America, eating every day is as simple as driving to the always well stocked local grocer or to the nearest fast food restaurant. We truly are a nation of privilege and opportunity.
However, I’d like to always add the spiritual dimension to our discussion since that is the central desire of this daily work: to draw out the eternal aspects and insights of that daily life we all lead. And food, my dearest, is at the very heart of true Orthodox theology. Fr. Alexander Schmemann, of blessed memory, wrote a little book that each of you should have and regularly read. It is “For The Life of the World.” In it, Fr. Alexander lays out his basic premise that the life of the world is caught up, and meant to be caught up, in the very Life of God Who is Life Himself. Listen to what Fr. Alexander writes in chapter one of this little jewel of a book: “In the biblical story of creation man is presented, first of all, as a hungry being, and the whole world as his food.”
But we all know how that story ended. Man had the whole world for his food, all of Paradise, but one tree was off limits at this early stage of Man’s growth and maturity, and Man did not resist temptation.
Turns out it was misused hunger and food that got us in trouble in the first place and now it will be the proper discipline of our hungers and the real Food of Bread and Wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ that will save us.
In today’s Gospel Lesson, our Lord lays out the path for us to follow if we are to reign in the terrors of unchecked hungers and tame our passions to focus our lives on a worthy path. He says: “Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” (read the entire lesson in Luke 12:42-48)
The path to focused and purposeful life lies in the words “faithful, “wise,” and “steward.” All of these words imply one who is able to see beyond the immediate gratification of a desire to the real consequences of unchecked “hunger.” Our Lord understood this in His 40 days in the Wilderness before His public ministry began in the Gospels. He was tempted by the evil one to turn stones into bread to satisfy His physical hunger, but He refused to accept a temporary comfort and forfeit an eternal plan. The Lord told the evil one and us as well that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God.” Matthew 4:4 Of course the Lord here was only quoting from the Hebrew scriptures from Deuteronomy 8:3.
What makes a person faithful, wise, and a steward of his or her life? It’s clear from the life of our Lord and the lives of the saints and the wisdom of the scriptures and the teachings of the Fathers that this kind of life begins and ends with the simple command uttered by the Lord to His disciples: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
Faithfulness becomes mere rule keeping without love. Wisdom becomes mere shrewdness without love. And stewardship becomes mere self-righteousness without authentic, soul changing and consistent love.
And Love, my dearest, is a Person: Jesus Christ.
Today, if you are ever going to tame the hungers that so often disrupt the joy of your life, you are going to have to encounter True Love. You are going to have to, on a daily basis, enter into a loving relationship with Him Who is Love Himself. This love is going to have to escape the easily dismissed rhetoric of religion and enter into the uncomfortable and challenging reality of daily confrontation with Him Who is Love. You are going to have to leave your comfort zone and dare to love God FIRST and BEST.
Today, in this moment, right now as you live at this time – Love God with all you are and the person next to you as much as you love yourself. This is the only path that will satisfy truly the deepest hunger of your soul. It will satisfy your truest hunger and tame all the other hungers that are so out of control in your life. There simply is no other path. What joy to finally see our way out of the debilitating hungers that addict us to self-destruction, and what joy to know His Love and Grace wait patiently for each of us to embrace this lifestyle of purposeful love!