“One must eat to live, and not live to eat.”
Tartuffe, by Jean Baptiste Moliere
One of the things that binds Scripture together is the constant theme of food and eating. In this way, Scripture is prescience. In order to live, all beings must eat. We’re even created with taste buds to help our enjoyment and appreciation
In America, fast food eating is prevalent. When we pass the McDonald’s restaurant on route 47, there is always a line at the drive-through, no matter the time. The idea of families gathering at tables and sharing their stories, hopes and dreams seems to be faltering. Would that we might return to the Jewish idea of the table being the family altar, holy and sacred.
In the March 16th edition of The Economist Magazine, there was an article about “Dinner diplomacy.” Its thesis was that sharing food together leads to more successful negotiations, I might add closeness. The focus of the article was the February summit meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump and how they were presented individual plates of shrimp cocktail, grilled sirloin, and chocolate lava cake as one is served in most restaurants. At first glance, it sounds delicious.
Psychologists believe that a meal together is a first step towards improving relations. It sounds as if they were off to a good start. However, more recent work suggests that a more positive outcome might have come from a family style, serving food from a central platter. Eating similar food leads people to feel closer to one another, but then the psychologists wondered if the way in which food was served could lead people to become more aware of other’s needs and drive them to become more cooperative. They set up experiments and concluded that this was the case. Serving food from a central platter might help world diplomacy, as well as improve awareness of others.
I thought about this and reflected about Bible stories. Book after Book includes situations connected with eating. We are invited to chew on the reality that food can be the reward, the temptation, or the substance which gives life. Whether it was Abraham inviting the stranger/angels to eat with him, the Israelites sharing manna in the desert, the feeding of the 5000, the killing of the fatted calf for the Prodigal Son, or the Last Supper, when food was shared, it drew people together.
God was omniscient. Food is basic. Taking this a step further, might I suggest that eating to live in the spiritual sense means not only sustenance for the body, but sustenance for the soul. Each time we gather for Eucharist, we eat from a common plate and drink from a common cup. Each time we commune together, we are given the opportunity to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Ps 34:8) By celebrating the Eucharist, we become one body, one spirit. We eat to live as Christ’s body and become more whole in the process. Swallow Jesus’ promise. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Jn 6:35)
To God be the glory!