19th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: August 8, 2021
“Taste and see, taste and see”
I remember my first trip to Japan on business in 1993 to visit a steel plant in Okayama on the southern part of the main island.
I was a little worried because at the time I was a “meat and potatoes” eater and really didn’t like fish or anything that swam as food at all.
And yet I knew that Japan was a land of fresh seafood and wondered what would happen.
On our second night there, we went to a small restaurant in a little town and I was told that we were going to have tempura. I asked what it was, and they said lightly battered and deep-fried vegetables and fish.
Well the time came for the first course of tempura shrimp and I looked at my hosts nervously and they “taste and see” – in other words “step out of your comfort zone” and try something new.
I tried it and it was fantastic!! The meal continued with squid, scallop, eggplant and lotus root tempura and I learned a great lesson that day about eating out of my comfort zone.
Since then I have taken that attitude to meals from Africa, to South America and India and have enjoyed many amazing cuisines.
The reason I bring up this “taste and see” is that is the psalm we sung today and one we sing every year. I remember many times thinking; why are we singing this – what does it mean? And does it have anything to do with food?
Psalm 34 is a psalm of thanksgiving and this line to “taste and see” means to get a taste of God’s presence in your life and see for yourself.
In other words, if you taste the love of God in your life, if you experience it, through prayer, or encounter with others; once you have this feeling, then you will want it all the more
So, we need to ask ourselves, when in our lives do we feel God’s presence the most? For some it could be at a retreat in silence.
For others, it could be at the deathbed of a loved one and the comfort from family and friends; and for still others it may be when helping volunteer with the poor.
I remember for me, one of my greatest moments where I felt God present in my life was after work one day in 1996.
We had started up the new electric furnace at Dofasco, I was working long hours as well as having the family responsibilities of children who were two and four at the time.
I was exhausted both physically and mentally and I remember pleading to God for his help saying, “I can’t do this anymore alone, I need you to help me”.
I instantly had a feeling of God lifting a weight off my shoulders and I felt lighter, I felt God telling me that He would ensure the burden was not too heavy and would share the yoke with me.
We see a similar story in the first reading today with Elijah. He had just succeeded in defeating the false prophets but was now being chased by the governor who was upset about this.
He says, “it is enough now”, I can’t take it anymore, it’s okay if you want me to call it quits – I’m done!
But God says that he has more for Elijah to do and wants him to eat and rest. Food and peace are brought to him and we know he then travels to Mt. Sinai to hear God’s next mission for him.
God has more for each of us to do no matter what age in life we are…from 5 to 95.
So, we can ask ourselves – what is next in my life God? What do you want from me?
And Christ I think will answer us as he did in the gospel today: “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” In other words, if we hear and truly listen, then we will get closer to Christ; God’s message of love is always there, but when we are world focused and grumbling, we can’t hear and then can’t learn.
We will hear this message that the closer we get to God, the easier it will be to understand our mission.
What we will learn is God’s message to us as he had for the Ephesians in the 2nd reading: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us”.
The message is fundamental – to live in love, to love one another as Christ loves us. Showing God’s love in the world as St. Theresa of Calcutta says, “do small things with great love”!
Well, you may say – how do we do this?
I would answer you to “taste and see”.
I think one of the challenges of the Christian life, for all of us including myself is to get out of our comfort zones, our routines, and our standard way of doing things.
We have our regular routines in the spiritual life of maybe prayer, mass, grace before meals, etc. – the “meat and potatoes”.
But God is calling us to grow continually in our faith life from 10 years old to 90 years old. As our life goes, we are called to grow closer and closer to Him.
But how can we do this if we just keep doing the same things over and over again? We will get the same results! We need to try the “tempura” in the spiritual life.
What new spiritual food can we taste and see?
- How about trying meditation?
- Maybe a historical book to review the saint of the day will help our growth?
- Could we add a daily reflection to our cell phone?
- Maybe giving up a favourite treat once a week and giving the money to charity?
- What about possibly volunteering for the first time ever? I saw the Cancer Assistance Program is looking for drivers now – maybe that is for you?
- Maybe a physical rest or healthy way of living like Elijah is calling to you?
The key point in St. Paul’s letter is to be transformed to the new life as a Christian. To constantly, slowly look to get rid of the old self and in place become more and more Christ-like.
So, this week I have one small assignment for you. Each morning, ask God in a simple prayer – “Lord, I know you want me to grow closer to you – please show me what to taste and see!”