"Why do we want to eat God?" Five-year-old Maggie dropped this question on me after we finished our meal prayer tonight.
My first reaction: What a wonderful expression for the Eucharist, "eating God." It sounds scandalous--a slap across the face waking me to the radical gift of the thing.
To buy time, and to check that I'm understanding her, I ask, "Um, when do we eat God?"
"Well, the bread and wine are Jesus' body."
"We eat God so he forgives our sins," says 7-year-old Andy, who is taking first Reconciliation classes and therefore knows the answers to things.
I nod at him. "Yeah, that's part of it," I say. As I sling slop (aka mac 'n' cheese) into kids' bowls, I decide to go the analogy route: "Well, what happens when you eat food, like a chicken or a carrot?" I get a puzzled look, so I try again. "Where does it go?"
She stands up and silently points to her behind; we've discussed not talking about what comes out of our body during dinner. Good to see the lesson stuck.
"Well, that's what happens to part of it, but the rest becomes part of our body. Otherwise, why would we eat? Why do we eat, do you think?"
"Right. And what would happen if you didn't eat?"
"We wouldn't grow."
"You would die!" chimes in Andy.
"So, we eat God in the Eucharist for the same reasons," I say, gesturing with the broccoli. "God helps us grow, and gives us life, and when we eat Jesus' body and blood, he becomes part of us--part of our body, and our spirit."
"Like our eyes," Andy says knowingly, pointing to his eyes. "Jesus makes our eyes see."
Umm...not sure where to go with that, so I take a pass. "Does that makes sense?" I ask Maggie. "Did that answer your question?"
But, as usual, the bell has rung and class is out, 'cause I don't get an answer. "Why did you get D.W. macaroni and cheese, Dad?" she asks.
Feel free to offer your take on how you'd handle that question--or how you answered similar questions from kids. Be merciful, though--figuring out an age-appropriate, theologically correct answer while serving dinner to three kids is no small feat!