12 August 2012

ANO PO BANG NAKAIN NINYO?

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jn 6:41-51 (1 Kgs 19:4-8 / Ps 34 / Eph 4:30-5:2)

When someone acts strangely, people ask, “What has gotten into him?”  When a player suddenly follows a game plan different from what the team agreed on, his colleagues wonder, “What has gotten into him?”  When a beauty elopes with a goon, her friends speculate, “What has gotten into her?”

In our language, we have an equivalent to “What has gotten into him”.  And it is even better!  We say, “Anong nakain niya?”  Thus, when someone indifferent to you suddenly becomes extra-sweet to you, you are suspicious and question, “Ano kayang nakain nito at ang lambing-lambing sa akin ngayon?”  When a usually shabby dude starts taking a bath and grooms himself well, his friends ask him, “Uy, ano bang nakain mo?  Mukhang tao ka na ha!  In church, when you unexpectedly bump into someone who never joins in community worship, you may catch your self wondering, “Ano kayang nakain nitong mokong na ito at biglang nagsimba?”

Interestingly, the difference between the English expression and its Filipino equivalent is the concept of “kain”.  The English speaker asks, “What has gotten into him” but the Filipino inquires about what the person ate.  This is very telling.  Underneath the Filipino expression “Ano bang nakain ng taong ito” is the belief that what we eat – literally and otherwise – influences our thoughts, words, and deeds.  Our total behavior and even our usual preferences in life is shaped, to some extent if not comprehensively, by what we eat.  This idea clearly resonates with the commonly accepted dietary principle that we are what we eat.  Such a line of thinking should be important for us, Filipinos, because we are a people who enjoy eating very much: our cocktails quite often appear as banquets and our banquets like street-parties.

So, what have you been eating?  Do your thoughts speak of your daily menu?  Do your words have the aroma of your favorite dish?  Does your behavior reveal your last meal?

In the movie, “Babe, Pig In The City”, this saying strikes the audience more than the pig-protagonist: “What you eat and drink today walks and talks tomorrow.”  This should also be true in our understanding of the Holy Eucharist.  How much peaceful and loving a place our world would be if every believer and recipient of the Holy Eucharist – the very Body and Blood, divinity and humanity, of Jesus – consciously strive to live according to this saying.  Imagine, we would have million “Jesuses” walking and talking around…indeed, as many as there are communicants in all the Masses in the entire planet!

In the first reading today, the Prophet Elijah walked for forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb, God’s mountain.  So what has gotten into this prophet?  Well, an angel of the Lord served him food.  But no matter how heavenly the food served him by an angel tasted, no matter how divine its ingredients and preparation, it was still human food and drink: hearth cake and a jug of water.  Soon enough, if not right after forty days, the Prophet Elijah surely was hungry again.  Imagine if he could have not only food served by an angel but the “Bread of angels” itself!

Imagine not, because the Bread of angels is with us here on earth.  It becomes the Bread of men in every Mass.  “Panis angelicus fit panis hominum…” thus we sing.  This Bread of angels becoming Bread of men is the Holy Eucharist which we partake of in the Mass.  And whoever eats this Bread not only gains strength for his earthly sojourn but also receives eternal life even now here on earth.

Further, this Bread of angels and men is Jesus Himself!  In the gospel today, He declares, “I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.”  That Bread we shall now eat in a short while.  That Bread we may eat as often as we want.  That Bread, while its effects are unimaginably priceless, costs us nothing.  But that Bread, who is Jesus Himself, should change us, transform us, and make us what St. Paul the Apostle describes in the second reading today: “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.  And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.  …imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”

So, what’s gotten into you?  Ano po bang nakain ninyo?  What have you been eating?  Whatever it is, may it never be difficult for anyone to know right away that it is Jesus – our Eucharist – the Source and Summit of our life.  

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” is our response to the Psalm today.  Gustate et videte quoniam suavis et Dominus.  In this Mass we taste and see the Lord’s goodness.  From this Mass, let us go forth and give our brothers and sisters a taste of that goodness and a vision of the Lord.

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