Feasting, Fasting, and the Eucharist

Last week saw the beginning of Lent, and with it, Mardi Gras. "Fat Tuesday." All around the world there are festivals and parties with one main goal: Overindulge in whatever you can. Traditionally Mardi Gras grew into a huge feast because it was the night before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which is marked…

fasting

Last week saw the beginning of Lent, and with it, Mardi Gras. “Fat Tuesday.” All around the world there are festivals and parties with one main goal: Overindulge in whatever you can. Traditionally Mardi Gras grew into a huge feast because it was the night before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which is marked most notably by fasting. Abstinence from everything indulged in the day before. And what do you do before embarking on a 40 day fast? Consume all you can! Get it while the getting is good!

Many, of course, are just in it for the party. They’re not planning on engaging in the subsequent fast, just the over-indulgence. Needless to say, they’re missing the point. The festival is yet one more party in a string of parties trying to appease their deepest desires. They’re seeking joy and pleasure and meaning in consumption.

On the more pious side of the dance floor, others are also in it for the fasting. But some of them (and I must, honestly, lump myself in this category at times in my life) also miss the point. The Lenten fast is simply one more religious performance in a string of religious performances trying to appeasing God. They’re seeking joy and pleasure and meaning in abstinence.

It’s a grand exercise in missing the mark in two different directions at the same time. Both miss the point by this one simple error: whether feasting or fasting, their focus is on food. Meat. Beer. Coffee. Cheese. Carbs. Sugar. Whatever. Lots of it or none of it.

Both, perhaps, need to hear these simple (if not also shocking and challenging) words from Jesus:

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

John 6:53-58

The broken body and spilled blood of Christ. A mystery that goes beyond even the rite of the Eucharist, that carries over into the lived experience of the hungry and thirsty disciple. He alone satisfies while meat and beer, cheese and coffee, even wine and bread—whether lots of it or none of it—are only distractions. Jesus himself is what we crave.

Real food, real drink.

 

This article originally appeared here, and is used by the author’s kind permission.

Rodger Otero
Along with his his, Angela, Rodger is the co-pastor of the Greenleaf Vineyard Church in Chapel Hill, NC. He is a husband-father-musician-pastor just trying to figure this out as he goes. San Diego is the Motherland, but Chapel Hill is Home. He riffs on formation, leadership, and being fully human.