Sunday, November 20, 2011

Test Your Servants

November 21, 2011

Memorial of The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"Please test your servants for ten days. Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then see how we look in comparison with the other young men who eat from the royal table, and treat your servants according to what you see." He acceded to this request, and tested them for ten days; after ten days they looked healthier and better fed than any of the young men who ate from the royal table. So the steward continued to take away the food and wine they were to receive, and gave them vegetables. To these four young men God gave knowledge and proficiency in all literature and science, and to Daniel the understanding of all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:12-17

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood." Luke 21:1-4


Suscipe (by St. Ignatius of Loyola)

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me. Amen.


Daniel and his companions face the "food test" in today's first reading. We face the food test on Thursday -- Thanksgiving Day -- and for the next five weeks of holiday parties, celebrations, and feasting. Beth tells me she heard a report that people consume on average 500 calories per day more than they need during the holiday season.

Meals and food are almost synonymous with celebration in American culture as well as in other societies around the world. New Year's Eve is alcoholic beverages and parties until after midnight. Halloween is candy. Fourth of July is barbecue. Thanksgiving is turkey and "all the fixin's." None of these on their merits is wrong or bad. However, often these holidays become times for overconsumption. ("Bring out the second turkey!" "No pie for Uncle Harry. Only Cool Whip!")

Yet we do not "need" all this food. Nutritionists tell us that we only need to multiply our body weight by a factor of ten to determine how many calories our body needs to maintain that weight. Create a deficit and you should lose weight.

When Daniel and his companions refused to eat the feast fit for a king and his court, they created a caloric deficit and did not meet their basic needs. That is probably why they started to look wan. However, they had the wisdom to know that they could fulfill the need for proper nutrition with only vegetables. When the chamberlain took away the king's food and wine and replaced it, the four young men thrived. Although they gave up some material comfort, they were rewarded for their sacrifice with knowledge and wisdom.


What would you be willing to have taken away from you? What can you sacrifice for a greater good? Food? Alcohol? Money? Time?

Such a practice is not unusual. In Egypt, our Coptic Christian sisters and brothers fast for the 40 days of Advent in addition to the fasting that they share with us during Lent. The Nativity Fast (Advent or Winter Lent) is the 40 days preceding Christmas (which remember falls on January 7 in their calendar). These 40 days correspond to the 40 days that the Prophet Moses fasted on the mountain, before receiving the Ten Commandments from God, which were at that time considered the word of God to his people. Thus, with Christ being the Word of God, these Coptic Christians fast those 40 days in preparation of receiving the Word of God in flesh.

Instead of making this the "December to Remember" because of some material indulgence, prepare ye the way of the Lord in the coming Advent season by offering something up as a personal sacrifice.

As retailers crank up their commercialization of Thanksgiving and so-called "Black (Ink) Friday," why not reconnect with people in your life by joining in with the Buy Nothing Day movement. ( After all, to adjust a famous phrase, there is a picture on this website with a sign that reads, "What would Jesus buy?"