Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Tuesday in the 19th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
When Appetites Go Awry
Readings: Ezekiel 2:8—3:4; Psalms 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131; Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
Picture: CC winston & michelle
In the Mexican movie, Bad Habits (Malos Habitos) (still showing at the Picturehouse) several people are depicted as facing similar problems. A little girl cannot stop binging on junk food, despite being put through various weight-loss programs by her mother. The latter’s concern over the child’s weight has, however, a dysfunctional aspect. Obsessed with being thin, she too has a problem with food. She denies her body of food only so as to consume the approval that society offers to the lean. She suffers from anorexia. Her husband, on the other hand, finds her too skinny, and indulges in an adulterous relationship with a buxom student. Their problems in the secular realm are mirrored in the religious life of a nun, a relative of theirs. In order to taste the benefit of having God stop the torrential rains that are causing much misery in the nation, she endangers her own life through extreme fasting.
Whether or not we agree with everything in the movie – for example, the parallel it seems to draw between religious fasting and anorexia (see, e.g., Holy Feast and Holy Fast) – it’s difficult to remain unmoved by its depiction of what happens when appetites – whether gastronomical or social, sexual or religious – go awry. We live in a society that is characterized by consumption. Our lives are increasingly centered on the need to eat and drink like there was no tomorrow, to shop till we drop. And yet, we cannot escape the fact that our appetites are becoming more and more problematic. They damage not just the environment and others, but especially our very selves. Our need to consume is becoming a yawning chasm threatening to consume us. And our efforts at controlling them often go only so far. It’s like trying to put a lid on a pot of boiling water while the fire is still blazing. It’s only a matter of time before the steam escapes, often with explosive results.
Perhaps our readings today offer us another alternative. Instead of an anxious and ultimately unsuccessful suppression or repression of unruly cravings, the prophet in the first reading is in touch with a more fundamental need – an appetite for God’s word. Obediently he allows God to feed him with the One thing for which we all hunger. So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat… I ate it and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. It is this same sweetness that the psalmist proclaims: How sweet to my taste is your promise! And, in the gospel, is it not likely that what Jesus finds so appealing about children is the fact that, however rebellious they may be from time to time, they always depend upon their parents to feed them? Isn’t this the kind of parent that God wishes to be, one who tirelessly seeks out his hungry wayward children, only so as to feed them with the most fulfilling of food?
If this is indeed a more constructive option, then perhaps what we consummate consumers need to do is not so much to put a lid on our appetites, as much as to trace them to their root. For it is only then that we find the deep hunger that moved the prophet so courageously to open his mouth and to allow himself to be fed. And in being fed, he himself becomes a channel of nourishment for others. Perhaps it is only in this way that dysfunctional consumers can be transformed into committed prophets. Perhaps it’s only in this way that a hungry world can be fed.
How might God be found in our appetites today?
Posted by Fr Chris at 12:31 pm