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.

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."

Happy holidays!

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