On feeding one’s body and spirit 

“We are what we eat.” 

THAT’S the tagline that we’ve heard for many years.  Proper nutrition has a lot to do with the way we feel, with our physical and emotional health. Take for example the advice that we hear from doctors, nutritionists, and health coaches: “Don’t overeat food full of sugar and bad fat. It’s not good if you want to prevent diabetes, lose weight, and keep a healthy heart.” “Eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, and other organic food. Avoid consuming a lot of processed food.”

Health experts even tell us also to take vitamins, enzymes, and probiotics.

Indeed, what they are saying is the deep connection between what we take in our bodies and our health. Many times, however, we don’t adhere to their advice. So our health fails.

We are what you eat, what we take in our bodies.  That’s true too concerning our Christian faith and way of life.  We’re not just bodies; we’re spirits and souls.  Just like our bodies, we need to feed our spirits and souls with proper nutrients.

That is what Jesus is implying in this Sunday’s Gospel (John 6:24-35).  For sure, Jesus miraculously fed five thousand people with the merely five loaves and three fishes that Philip said they had. But if we look deeper into the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that he is offering us more than material food to feed and heal us. Jesus is giving us Himself! He’s the food for the journey.  He’s the vital nutrient of our spirits and souls. If we take in his Word and the graces of the Sacraments of the Church, we’ll have healthy spiritual lives. We’ll be happier and peaceful. We’ll have fewer tensions, worries, and conflicts.

As Jesus said, “Don’t look for food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you…I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”

The Eucharist we celebrate every Sunday is one concrete way to feed our spirits and souls. The Word that we hear every Sunday changes the way relate with others. The Body and Blood of Christ that we receive at Mass strengthen us and nourish our souls.

Nowadays, they say that eating is more than gobbling up food. It’s eating delightfully, especially in the company of other people.  Consuming food has more to do than feeding our bodies. It has a lot to do also with promoting a healthy family, friendship, community, and society. It also supports a healthy social and emotional life.

In a way, it’s what we do every Sunday at Mass, and at any Mass we celebrate. We celebrate it together by singing and praying, eating and drinking together.  The Mass is a meal and Jesus in Word and Sacrament is the main course. In celebrating it together, we become stronger as a family of God. We support each other in prayers. And we remind one another of the Word of Life that Jesus preached.

The Mass, however, reminds us of another banquet that we all should be waiting for after our lives here on earth. It’s the eternal banquet in heaven. To reach that banquet, the Lord says, we’ll have to take his teachings and put them into practice. 

We are what we eat, what we consume in our bodies and spirits.  Let’s take in Jesus in our lives.  Let’s delight in his words and sacraments

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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