Taste and See

08-08-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Today most of us are very conscious to "eat healthy" and not to indulge frequently in food that is not nutritious for us. Many people now shop only for organic certified foods. Some folks have now switched to an entirely plant-based diet. Overall we are blessed in this country with the privilege of having such a great variety of fresh and healthy foodstuffs. There are some among us, even in the Town of Franklin, who do struggle to obtain food. For them, food is a scarcity which both through your generosity, our Saint Vincent de Paul Society and the Franklin Food Pantry help them. Many of us also have memories of being young and having our parents say to us "Taste and see if you like it or just have a little". We often hear how important it is to taste food. This week's readings are about the spiritual food which is good for us.

The prophet Elijah confronted King Ahab about some of his decisions in our first reading, but we learn that the king's decision making is controlled by his wife Jezebel. She had convinced him to be tolerant of false worship. Elijah wondered about Ahab's very weak leadership. In the end, Elijah was exiled and Jezebel continued to have a strong influence over Ahab. This passage which we hear this weekend reveals Elijah to be alone and discouraged and he seeks God's release from all of his burden. However, God's angel provides Elijah with food that will nourish him to make the long trip to the mountain where God will give him comfort.

Our Gospel passage lets us see Jesus among a crowd that was difficult and resistant. In some ways the crowd knows what Jesus means about the heavenly bread, but knowing is not believing. Jesus also tells them that faith is not a rational quality, but a gift from God. For Jesus, faith or lack of faith in him has eternal consequences. Jesus continues and dramatically explains that as living bread, he will be broken for them, so that they all might partake. Jesus tells them again that those who ate manna and those who ate of the loaves he had multiplied, not only were hungry but will be hungry again, and also died or will die. The manna and loaves were perishable bread, food for perishable bodies. He tells them that the bread He will give is the real thing, his life for the world and imperishable bread for imperishable people.

In various ways we interpret the story of Elijah and also our Gospel passage as Eucharistic stories. The early church leaders would say that the story of Elijah "prefigures" the Eucharist. Scripture scholars say that may be true, but the story of Elijah is itself a complete story on its own.

Our Gospel passage is about Jesus dealing with people about the reality of "tasting and seeing". This gospel is asking the listeners of Jesus to transform their religious self-understanding because He says "I am the Bread of Life." Jesus re-centers their religious sense as he is something greater than Moses and his manna. He invited them, and also us, to "Taste and See."