When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread.
Call me old fashioned, but I don't eat meat on Friday. Although Catholics in the United States were excused from the age-old restriction on eating flesh meat on Fridays as long ago as 1967, and the 1983 Code of Canon Law (can. 1251) requires only that some kind of food be given up on Fridays, for me it is a sign of connectedness to the millions who have gone before me in the faith to try to do what they did--to belong to their Communion. So I stick to the old rule of abstinence.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
The outward sign of unity with earlier generations is only one of the merits of this kind of abstinence--a happy side effect is that it encourages folks to eat more fish, which is good for their health. But therein lies a tale of woe for your humble, but gluttonous, narrator. Last year a Japanese restaurant opened here in Athens, the Happy Kobe, and they specialize in sushi. I've always been a fan of sushi, but this was the best sushi I'd ever tasted. I've never been to Japan, so maybe I would have a different opinion of the Happy Kobe's sushi if I'd ever had the real thing, but I have eaten sushi in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, London, and Paris, so come on, toss me a freakin' bone.
No one can serve two masters.
The sad news was that the Happy Kobe closed for the summer months, making for an Unhappy Scottie. I waited patiently for the doors to re-open on the advertised date, September 15. When the fall term here began I was almost literally drooling as I counted the days. On the 15th I almost ran from my office over to the Happy Kobe, only to see a sign announcing that the opening had been delayed until the next day. Oh well, I thought, better late than never. So I went back the next day. I had a faculty meeting at noon on the 16th, so I didn't get to the Happy Kobe until 1:15. But the Happy Kobe is only open until 2, and when I went in I was told that they were so swamped that they weren't taking any more order. Angry Scottie, but Patient Scottie, walked over to a coffee shop and had a cookie for lunch instead. Malnurished Scottie then spent the weekend waiting for another chance at bliss on the following Monday (no Happy Koby on the weekend).
Esau came in from the field and he was famished.
But on Monday a thought occurred to me. The daily Mass at my parish is at 12:15. Because of the serving hours of the Happy Kobe (11-2), there was really no way I could observe the Eucharistic fast, go to Mass, and then go to lunch at Happy Kobe with any sense of security that I would be enjoying sushi that day. I decided to skip Mass, even though I had originally planned to go. Immediately I was reminded of a passage of St. Thomas Aquinas that I had read just two days earlier, from the Disputed Question De malo. There Aquinas discusses the choice of Esau to give away his birthright for a meal, classifying the act as an instance of gluttony. And there I was, passing over a chance to participate at Mass in order to eat raw fish. I was going to be a glutton. I was doing it deliberately, too, so there wasn't to be any of that "Oh, was there a Mass today? Fancy that!" stuff.
He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Of course, we are not obligated to assist at Mass on most Mondays, last Monday being one of them. So at least my skipping Mass in order to stuff my face was not a case of neglect of religious duty--irreverence. We face choices all the time, and it is not always the case that we are choosing between one course of action that is clearly and unambiguously good, the other clearly and unambiguously bad. Sometimes the choices we make are between things that are each of them good, and our choice reflects only the inclination of our heart towards one good rather than another.
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
This week my heart was inclined more towards the satisfaction of a physical desire than towards a chance to be with my Lord in the Sacrament, and that is very troubling to me, in retrospect. If only it had been more troubling to me in beforespect. I used to have a colleague who would not eat pork. I asked him if he was Jewish or a Muslim, and he said "No, I just think that everybody should deny themselves just one thing that they know they really like." Perhaps it would be worth denying myself the pleasure of eating sushi, as an exchange for the spiritual benefit of looking for satisfaction elsewhere.
While he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion.
Giving up sushi will be difficult for me--I may not be able to do it. I suppose another solution is to simply re-order my values, so that what happened on Monday doesn't happen again: to exercise the virtue called sôphrosunê by the Greeks--self-control. It's a start. I often think of the story of the prodigal son at times like this, and I contemplate the fact that the boy's father would not have seen him "while he was yet at a distance" unless the father had already been looking for him in that direction. It is a great comfort. It's worth a Mass.