Food Serves To Fill Many Needs
By Elaine Emeth
The holiday season is upon us and our thoughts immediately turn to food! We eagerly anticipate feasting with family or friends on traditional favorites or adventurous new menus. Visions of holiday celebrations bring food, family, and friends together, highlighting our deep, inseparable human hunger for food and for belonging.
Food has many meanings in our lives. Eating and drinking are soulful activities � they have the potential to satisfy our deepest longing for connection with ourselves, with the earth, with each other, and with God. This is especially true when we eat with others. The essence of companionship is breaking bread together; indeed, the word companion comes from Latin words meaning "bread, with."
There are six positive ways to understand food and sharing meals with one another: survival, comfort, family, hospitality, celebration, and hope.
Without food we die; it's that simple. The food on our tables is a miracle of God's grace and human cooperation. We depend on God and each other for life itself.
Overindulgence in comforting food often signals that there�s an unmet need that should be addressed in another way. But when we only need a little band-aid to see us through, a comfort food can be a delicious thing.
The people with whom we regularly share a table become family to us, even if we are unrelated. There is an intimacy in the fellowship of persons who eat together.
The familiarity of eating together might deceive us into thinking it is not a big deal. However, familiarity creates family. There is something to be said for "quantity time" combined with "quality time" in family life, especially at mealtime.
Hospitality means inviting someone into our space, the physical space where we live and the sacred space of our hearts. We have inner housekeeping to do for the comfort of our guests as well as outer housekeeping. Preoccupations, conflicts, and hidden agendas must be swept away so that the space that we offer is full of peace.
Hospitality is a work of making peace. Then the food we share becomes a sign of unity.
We are sometimes able to smile through tears at farewells and funerals when we are surrounded by food and friends. Joy increases and sadness lightens when we share. A meal together seals our intent to be community, to be present and supportive to one another through all of life's ups and downs.
We must not wait passively for the heavenly banquet � we must help to create it here on earth. We pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Hunger in our world reminds us that our sisters and brothers in the human family depend on us for the food that they need to survive.
It matters what we eat, hoard, or give away. It is clearly God's intent that all persons be fed. The Bible is full of images of God feeding humankind, from creation of a garden full of food, to the manna given daily to the Israelites during the Exodus, to the feeding of a crowd beginning with just a few loaves and fishes, to Jesus Christ giving himself in bread and wine as food for our journey, to the early Christians making sure that everyone in their community was fed. The feeding of God's people has never been an abstract, purely spiritual idea � it shows God's concern for concrete, human need. The food supply must be shared.
The sacredness and soulfulness of eating can easily be lost. When we are rushed, wasteful, or careless about food, eating, and sharing, we may satisfy our immediate physical hunger, but leave our souls starving for connection with community and creation.
However, if we invest ourselves in consciousness and connection � by tending a garden and animals, purchasing food, planning the menu, preparing food, presenting and serving the meal, or sharing the feast, we deepen our connections with all of life. The care involved in preparing a lovely meal or sharing food with friends or strangers raises eating together to a holy act. Meals shared in community, in the spirit of hospitality, celebration, and hope link eating and belonging so that we are made more whole, and more deeply in touch with our humanity, by our participation in them.
May our hungers and our meals together lead us to God's heavenly banquet--"on earth as it is in heaven."
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