“All You Can Eat” by Brian Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time

If you’re from New Jersey and you travel out-of-state, you probably get a lot of, “No way, you’re from Joisey? Hey, do you spend all your time in one of those diners like in the movies?” Okay, diners are pretty great, maybe that stereotype isn’t totally out of nowhere. Our beloved diners in New Jersey have pretty overwhelming menus, but then once you make your choice, you can sit back and relax and enjoy a few cups of bottomless coffee while you wait for it to come out.

Another kind of restaurant with a multitude of options would be an all-you-can-eat buffet. But unlike a diner, you can take a little bit of everything, and you can keep going back for more. Of course,s there are probably certain things we each skip over even the first time through. Same thing for a cafeteria – you might ask for a little of this and a little of that, but maybe you’ll pass on the 3rd tray from the end, with the questionable looking sauce.

Here’s the thing about our faith as Catholics though – it doesn’t work that way. It’s not a buffet, though it is a banquet. We don’t go down the line and pick and choose the things we’ll take and the things we’ll leave. We’re called to take some of EVERYTHING! But don’t worry, you can always go back for more of those things you really love. To really live out our faith means you can’t say, “I’ll take a heaping helping of Advent & Christmas please. I love those angels and wise men! I’ll take some Sunday Mass too please. Go easy on the Holy Days of Obligation though. And I think I’ll skip over that Confession stuff. Oohh, extra Palms, please!”

In this week’s First Reading, Moses lays down the law; literally and figuratively, for the Israelites. He says, “In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you, nor subtract from it.” I would guess that the tendency for most of us isn’t to add to it these days, but rather to subtract from it.

Sometimes it might be an aspect of the Sacramental life we find inconvenient or isn’t our favorite, like we said for Mass or Confession. There might also be an aspect of the Church’s moral teaching we find hard to follow, or have trouble understanding. Even with that, we’re called to follow it and at the same time encouraged to go deeper in our understanding of where the Church is coming from.

Others might struggle with leaning one way or the other too much in terms of our life of prayer, and our living out the works of mercy. But it’s both! If you never miss Mass and pray the rosary every day, but you never make sandwiches for the homeless, that too is being a Cafeteria Catholic in a way. Same thing if you’re working at a soup kitchen every week but rarely pray and only go to Mass for the occasional wedding or funeral. Mother Teresa’s sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, live that out well, doing great acts of love, mercy, and service for the poor, the sick, and the dying, while always fueling that service with a deep life of prayer and devotion.
So, this week let’s each take a good look at our life of faith, and where we are with each item in the buffet. Let’s embrace our faith in its fullness. Did we take something from each tray? Have we tried something new? What are we going back for seconds of? Maybe we haven’t been eating enough vegetables and need to load some of those on. I’m not sure what the metaphorical equivalent of bacon-wrapped scallops is here, but I’ll take some of those!

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