Feeding

Jn. 6:24-35

One Saturday in l965 when I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, I was in a barber shop in Hyde Park. A fine looking older man in the chair next to me talked haltingly with his barber. After his hair was cut, he paid the barber, and slumped into a chair along the wall. A tall man in his late thirties came in, spoke to the older man, and patiently waited for the older to gather up his scarf, paper, and hat. Then the younger gently led the older out of the shop and into a car. Both men seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite place them.

“Who was that,” I asked my barber. “That was Clifton Utley and his son, the news’ correspondent, Garrick. You may remember Clifton, he used to be on the radio. It was ‘Clifton Utley and the News.’ ” “Wow,”I said, “Along with Gabriel Heater and H.V. Kaltenborn, he was one of the big names on the radio during WWII.” I was impressed. I had seen Clifton Utley. I sort of felt that my day was extra special.

It seems to be part of our human nature to feed upon individuals. For better or ill, whether by their charisma or our transference, they satisfy a hunger or thirst.

You and I recognize that the words in today’s Gospel lesson foretell the Last Supper and the communion service. We know that in the Eucharist, the bread that endures is the body of Christ, and that Jesus is the bread of life, which has come down from heaven. We have experienced the nourishment that the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, have given our lives. In the person of Jesus we find someone upon whose personality, teachings, actions, and presence we have fed. The event and person of Jesus Christ, like the Exodus and the person of Moses for the Jews, sustains us.

There are ramifications to our feeding upon the body of Christ. If through faith and the sacraments we are the body of Christ, and if Jesus dwells in us and we in Him, then we in turn are food for others. Our lives and actions as Christians feed others.

To return to my story. At first I was impressed by having seen Clifton Utley. As years went by, I saw Garrick Utley reporting from all parts of the world on television. I enjoyed their notoriety. But in recent years, what feeds my soul is not the reputation of these two newsmen, but the memory of how very gentle the son was with his infirmed father. Without any trace of condescension, impatience, or self-consciousness, the son kindly and even wisely waited upon his father. Over the years I’ve thought about that interplay of son with father both as I dealt with my own father and my relationship to my two sons.

I do not know the faith of either the Utleys. I do know that if God shows His gracious hand in the lives of His creatures, how much more can you and I know God through our mutual lives as we share the Good News and the body and blood of Christ with one another? You and I are not only fed by Christ. Through us He feeds the world. Amen.