“What does it taste like?”
This is the main question I hear from eight-year-olds who are about to make their First Holy Communion.
At first, I confess, I saw it as quite cute, “childlike” if you will— their little focus on the very obvious—the actual physical experience of eating something—something they have never eaten before.
But once again, the “teacher’ plays the fool. No, not “plays” the fool, in this case the “teacher” is actually the fool.
Grownups can be so busy moving on to the “real” point that they often miss the healthiest part of the meal.
And we think it’s the children who are obsessed with sweets?
Of course, I was not the one to correct my own error. The only true teacher, Jesus, and the only true guide, The Holy Spirit, once again came to the rescue.
It was about 8:20 on an ordinary weekday morning. I had just left the pew and got in line to receive Communion. And as I walked toward the altar I found myself quietly asking: “What does it taste like?”
There I was, a full-fledged adult, a “mature” believer, in line with all the eight-year olds of the world—though with one great exception—I was probably the only one who lacked sincerity.
Not that I didn’t really wonder what it tastes like. I did. But my “bigness” wouldn’t leave good enough alone. I quickly translated the simple into the complex: “What does it taste like?” became “What is heaven like?”
Not a bad question, of course. But not the one being asked. Once again, I was rushing right to dessert. But not so the eight-year-old. No, the eight-year-old is much more straightforward, sincere, genuine, and ironically, no nonsense. He and she are much more down-to-earth, which in this case, strangely enough, brings them much closer to heaven.
Their question is simply what it seems. They have no hidden pomposity dressed up as profundity. They are simply asking a quite simple question.
“What does it taste like?”
And if there’s any need for more elaboration concerning such a straightforward question, it should only make their point simpler, not more complex. For example, I guess in order to help us adults see more clearly what they mean, perhaps it’s safe to say that the eight-year-old is literally asking: “What does this thing that I am about to put in my mouth, that you tell me is the real, actual body of Jesus Christ, a man who died almost two-thousand years ago, really taste like?”
And to allow the eight-year-old in me to answer, I say, it kind of tastes like cardboard.
It’s dry, bland, you might even say, stale.
Kind of what you’d expect, at best, from something two-thousand-years-old.
Kind of what mankind has tasted on a daily basis since the beginning of time, since the time Adam and Eve were sent forth from the garden to work for their daily bread.
Life can be like cardboard.
It can be dry, bland, you might even say, stale.
It can even be what we come to expect.
At least for us adults, for those of us who only take things at face value.
For, you see, the child in his or her utterly face-value question reveals his or her astounding trust and playfulness within the much deeper mystery of what truly exists but cannot be seen. For there is another question, one that eight-year-olds don’t ask nearly as often when it comes to First Holy Communion.
They hardly ever ask: “How can that be?”
They move right past the “how” to get to the “taste and see.”
No matter the age, what brings sincerity is faith, and what increases faith is sincerity.
Therefore all questions safely asked from under the umbrella of faith are not questions casting doubt.
No, they are genuine gestures of childlike wonder, that simply ask in one way or another:
“What is this faithful reality going to be like for me?”
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”