Is not life more than food? Jesus asks this in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 6.25)
Of course it is, we would say, but we also have to admit that food is a great human preoccupation and a primary source of comfort as well as nourishment. Our mother’s milk was, after all, the first of our human comforts. Hot soup during this recent spate of rainy weather has also been a comfort.
Food is intimately bound up with our biblical origins and history as a people of faith
- Adam and Eve got into trouble because they chose to eat food that was forbidden.
- When the Israelites were in the desert, God gave them daily substantial food called manna.
- The remembered stories of and about Jesus often brought people together around food – parties, and dinners and ritual meals and pick up meals on the road. Then of course, there is the multiplication of the loaves and fishes – a story told by each of the evangelists, so profound was this experience for the followers of Jesus.
Jesus knew how important it was to share food and drink with people and He went beyond that to link food with His relationship with His Father. “I have food to eat that you do not know about,” Jesus told his followers (John 4.32) “My food is to do the will of the One who sent me (John 4.34).” “Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life – the kind of food I was offering you (John 6.27). In the mystical transformation of food’s nurture of mind and body, Christ comes in Eucharist as bread and wine to nourish our daily lives.
Halloween marks the beginning of a long holiday season, where the centerpiece of our hospitality will be food that is shared. Looking ahead, how about making space in our lifestyles to find and savor spiritual food in times that could easily distract us from God’s presence and care? How about reexamining our own use of food as a humanizing agent for ourselves and our communities?
Generations of health experts have warned us that we are what we eat. The irrepressible Zorba the Greek in Nikos Kazantzakis’s great novel points us to the truth of being what we eat. “Tell me what you do with the food you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are. Some turn their food into fat and manure, some into work and good humor, and some, I’m told, into God.”
Like Jesus, we, too, have food to eat which we do not know.
Food for bodily and spiritual strength.
Food for vision.
Food for re-valuing food, and sharing it at life’s many tables.
~ Sister Joan Sobala