I grew up in a home where meals were important affairs because food was more than mere fuel. It was a ministry for my mother who believed little else could make someone feel as welcome, loved, or nurtured as a good meal.
I never thought my family odd until I became aware of the secular world’s view of food: where fast and convenient meals take precedence over nourishing food, and where food serves to get rid of the uncomfortable “hungry” feeling, rather than as a way to build up the body of man and Christ.
The idea that food could play a deeper role than a purely physical one is lost on the world, except those poor girls double-dating with Ben and Jerry after a break-up. The world understands an emotional component to eating, but only when it comes out in an unhealthy manner.
In essence, food has become for the general public something simultaneously taken too seriously on one end (“I can’t eat a brownie. I had one this month already. I’ll get fat.”) and not seriously enough on the other (“Whatever. Let’s just go through the drive-thru.”).
Neither of those approaches is healthy or Catholic. There is a
real ministry in food and the potential for Christ to work
intimately in, through, and with food in ways you would never
In fact, Christ is all about food, as we know that Christ’s most
important work happened, and continues to happen, in the
form of bread and wine.
His first miracle occurred at the Wedding Feast at Cana, where He made alcoholic drink.
Now, we all know that alcohol isn’t exactly the kale of the beverage world. Why would Christ supply something that is actively bad for man? Because God did not create food merely to fuel us physically, but to support us in the many facets of our own lives.
As the importance of wine at the wedding feast was not about the physical benefits but rather the emotional and spiritual, Christ’s supply of wine points to these different roles of food and encourages us to embrace them.
Furthermore, Christ ministered to the crowds with food. He multiplied the loaves and fishes, dined with tax collectors and prostitutes, called to Zacchaeus that he would “dine with him tonight,” and urged the family of the girl brought back to life to give her something to eat.
The vast majority of Christ’s interactions with people have to do with food. He creates community over food. He even called fishermen, who were doing what? Collecting fish to be sold for food.
What’s more, all of this wining and dining culminated in the last supper – the meal which instituted the Eucharist and our faith.
All of salvation is continued through Christ’s ministering to the body of His bride – us, the Church – in bread and wine, which becomes our “spiritual food and drink” at the Mass. Catholics believe that by eating this bread and drinking this cup, we may come to eternal life. The act of nourishing our souls does more than give our souls energy for that day. It actively goes into the very center of our souls and transforms us from the inside out, making us more like Christ with each partaking of His blessed body.
Christ is all about food.
Food is His gift to humanity by which He nourishes the magnum opus of His creation, His living, breathing, temple of the Holy Spirit: mankind. If Christ takes food this seriously, then we too ought give food the respect it is due.
If food is the means by which Christ reaches out to sinners and gathers His Church, then we too must see food as a ministry.
It is a ministry that we do for ourselves. In ministering to our bodies through wholesome, healthy food, we are giving ourselves the nourishment necessary to carry Christ’s joy to the world.
It is a ministry that we do for others. Food brings people together. Meals ought to take precedence, with proper settings, serving dishes, and time to enhance the experience of community over food.
If food creates community, then it should be celebrated. Meals are universal. Everyone must eat, and so we ought to celebrate the genuine community that comes from eating. As St. Francis of Assisi once cried in joy: “It is my wish that on a day such as this even the walls should be smeared with meat so they may feast with us!” If such joy is worth feeding walls over, then surely the joy of the Christian life is worth more than a McDouble from the dollar menu.
Food ought to taste good. Everything that is good points us back to the One who is Goodness. It should taste good naturally: by working with the flavors Christ gives us, we come to know His creative mind just a bit more.
Food ought to be enjoyed. By slowing down and enjoying our meals, we become aware of the goodness of God who provides us with sustenance.
Finally, food must stir in us thankfulness. We must pray fervently and with intense gratitude before consuming anything. Every morsel we touch is a reaffirmation of Christ’s overwhelming love for us, a reminder that we are in His caring hands. For, “the birds of the air neither sow nor reap … and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
Consider making food your friend again. Make time each week to make a good meal. Set the table. Take the time to dine well. Do not rush your meal, allow it to make present the joy God takes in and the love He has for His creation.
Food has the potential to change lives. Let it!