People develop tastes for different things. A woman recently confided to me she had developed a taste for Mexican food, and a while later mentioned her growing appreciation for classical music. Two very different realities, both not only tasted but also open to further cultivation of that taste.
Taste is an innate ability, there before food comes into our mouths. But developing taste entails giving ourselves to whatever is drawing our attention – and then trying to take in more of it.
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” Ps. 24, provides a backdrop for Jesus’ teaching about His being the bread of life. He claims the Father has placed a certain attraction deep inside us: “No one can come to me unless the Father ‘draw’ him or her.” Everyone registers something of this draw, this inner sense that there’s something “more” both inside and just out in front. We taste it when we love, or forgive, or gasp in wonder at a nighttime sky. But as with all tastes, it needs follow-up, action, and development.
In John’s 6th chapter, Jesus speaks of cultivating such a taste. Presenting Himself as bread, He tells the crowd they are not only to feed themselves on it, but, just as importantly, are to deepen their hunger for it, enlarge their capacity for taking it in. This bread that is Himself opens onto ever richer life, into infinity.
Jesus reveals that, in Him, they already have a taste for this bread of life, this up-close presence of God. But they must act to expand their desire for it – sharing food with the hungry, comforting people who mourn, welcoming the stranger, being forthright and honest, bringing justice into the world around them. Each of these and more will sharpen sensitivities to the world of His Father, the Kingdom of God. Striving to live these attitudes and carry out these behaviors develops that taste, enables believers to receive more and more of that life which is God’s own Self.
This talk of bread that nourishes suggests the Eucharist. When taking this bread into our hands at communion, we take in the life Jesus proclaims, this bread which is His own life. It nourishes all that is good and truthful, beautiful and healing. Entering into the Eucharist reverently, we deepen our longing, enhance our sensitivities, and continue to develop our taste for those things which bring about the Kingdom of God – here on earth as it is in heaven.
With our generous actions and prayerful Eucharists, may we Vincentians heighten our appetites for these foretastes of God’s nearness in our world.