Fifteen years ago this summer, a movie hit theaters about a man with a below average intelligence who lives an above average life. Forrest Gump was the biggest movie of 1994, won the Oscar for Best Picture, and it is still entertaining to watch today.
When someone would ask Forrest, “Are you stupid or somethin’,” he would politely answer, “Stupid is as stupid does, sir.”
I have to admit that years passed before I mentioned to my dad that I really didn’t know what those words meant, which made me feel pretty stupid, but then my father taught me. “Stupid is as stupid does” means that even if you’re very intelligent, if you do foolish things, then you’re a fool. On the other hand, if you’re not that bright (like Forrest), but you act with wisdom (like Forrest did), then you are wise.
You can see this illustrated in the lives of Forrest’s friends: Jenny and Lt. Dan. They both have I.Q.’s well above Forrest’s, but they waste many years of their lives on foolishness. Lt. Dan isolates himself in the big city. He’s lost in bitter, alcoholic, self-indulgence. Jenny, goes out wandering far and wide to find happiness. She’s lost exploring all the romantic and chemical imposters of happiness. But, what eventually saves them both, what brings them both back, is Forrest’s steadfast love for them; his loving and generous gift of himself.
Forrest didn’t realize it, but his love was drawing his friends to wisdom and life. He’s like Lady Wisdom in the first reading. She joyfully calls and welcomes everyone to her feast:
“Let whoever is simple turn in here;
To the one who lacks understanding, she says,
Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance, in the way of understanding.”
Wisdom speaks to us today, but where is this meal prepared for us?
Before answering that, we first turn to today’s Gospel, where Jesus tells the people that they must eat his flesh and drink His blood. And He really means it too. In relating the teaching of Jesus today, John’s Gospel employs a Greek word over and over again, which is translated for us as “to eat” or “to feed.” However, the word’s meaning in the Greek is more literal than that; it means “to munch” or “to gnaw.” Therefore, more accurate translations of Jesus’ words would be this:
“Whoever ‘munches’ my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him,” and, “Whoever ‘gnaws’ my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”
The meal where we do this, is here, at the Mass. At Mass we truly receive, alive and whole, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.
Where is wisdom’s feast for us? It is here, at the Mass. At Mass we grow in wisdom whenever we worthily receive the Eucharistic Christ, because when we receive Him, we become more like Him. As Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” We also grow in wisdom at Mass by hearing God’s teachings, through the Scriptures and the preaching we hear.
But something that you may never have ever realized, something you may never have been told, is that we can also grow in wisdom at Mass through witnessing the example of Jesus Christ set before us. At the Last Supper, Jesus offers up His body and blood, and tells His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” He wants us to do what He is doing. This means that we are not only to continue celebrating the Mass until He comes again. We are to imitate, in our own lives, the sacrifice we see.
We are all called to steadfast love, for God and for other people, by making a loving, and generous gift of ourselves each day for them. Christ commands us to make a sacrificial offering of ourselves for those we work for, for those we care for, for those we love, for those we happen to be around, for Him and for all people. By this sacrifice, our sacrifice united with Christ’s own sacrifice, we will be saved, and we will help to save others, too, by drawing them to wisdom and life.
As Forrest Gump would say, “You don’t have to be a smart man to know what love is.” At Mass, Jesus teaches us wisdom; He shows us what love looks like.