One of the most difficult tasks followers of God face is to experience God's presence in their everyday lives. By nature, we prefer to split our world into the classic division of "the sacred and the profane." The sacred is where God is; the profane is where God isn't.

Throughout history, we've created unique environments for the sacred: special places, buildings, people, clothes, rituals and languages. The profane, on the other hand, isn't unique or different. It's filled with the places, buildings, people. Clothes, rituals and languages we encounter everywhere, everyday. We're expected to behave "religiously" when we come across the sacred, "worldly" when we meet the profane.

Yet, when we return to our Christian beginnings, we quickly discover that our faith-ancestors made no such distinctions. They found God in every situation, person and event they experienced. They did this so consistently that the Roman authorities actually persecuted them because they believed Christians were atheists. Followers of Jesus had no sacred places, persons or rituals. They boasted none of the things "religious" folk reveled in.

Special place

Constantine's 313 Edict of Milan did more than just free Christians from Roman persecution. It also nudged them away from their roots. In particular, it moved the community from its ordinary "home-churches" to special "basilica-churches," starting the now familiar process of looking for the risen Jesus only in sacred places, only in buildings set aside for sacred rituals.

Scripture scholars believe the historical Jesus was steeped in the "wisdom tradition" of the Hebrew Scriptures, the tradition from which the first reading (Prov 9: 1-6) comes. The wisdom tradition revolves around the quest to discover Yahweh's presence in everything and everyone.

The Proverbs author turns this quest into a person, someone who invites the reader: "Let whoever is simple turn in here; to the one who lacks understanding, come, eat my food and drink of the wine I have mixed,...advance in the way of understanding." In other words, "advance in the way of wisdom, the way of discovering Yahweh's presence."

This is the same "way" which Paul encourages his community in Ephesus to travel (Eph 5: 15-20). "Watch carefully how you live," he writes, "making the most of the opportunity....Do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand the will of the Lord."

According to Paul, the authentic follower of Jesus "gives thanks always and for everything" in His name, not just for what he or she experiences in special places, at the hands of special people. The apostle believes we find God and God's will wherever we are, no matter where that wherever is.

Basics

Knowing the roots of our Christian faith, let us hear John's words of Jesus in the Gospel (Jn 6: 51-58) not against the background of our formal Roman Catholic Mass, but in the context of neighbors and friends gathered around a dining room table -- no liturgical vestments, no specially made bread and wine, not even an organ or choir.

John's community recognizes the flesh and blood of the Son of Man in the midst of their everyday lives. The food and drink which cause them to live forever is consumed in the same place and circumstances in which they consume ordinary food and drink. It's in the midst of their profane existence that they experience the true food and true drink which Jesus gives. By His dying and rising, Jesus has transformed the profane into the sacred.

It's certainly good not to have to worry about general persecutions. But what we modern Christian received in the trade-off might not be what Jesus intended His community to experience.

(08-17-00)