28th Sunday in Ordinary Time A20
Today’s readings all center on food provided in abundance by God on whom we are totally dependent. This concentration on having more than enough to eat seems out of touch with our society in which, ironically, dieting is a growth industry! How many ads are there which promise a loss of 10 pounds in the 1st week or an amount of 25, 50, 100 or more if you eat the prescribed foods or undergo surgery? There was a TV show called “The Biggest Loser” that allowed those a “little” overweight to feel comparably good about the paunch or tire around our waist. That is far different from scriptural times when big meals were far and few between, restaurants pretty much non-existent, and no one dreamed of saying “Do you want fries with that”.
Meals for our ancestors in faith were not casual occasions. The sharing of food with another was regarded as a sacred event. Those who ate together were bound to one another by friendship and mutual obligation. “We have eaten together” was a statement meant to convey the depth and extent of the commitment among those who first shared bread with one another. That is the meaning of “companion”, one with whom one shares bread.
This sense of the sacredness of a meal carried over into Israel’s religious life. Eating in the presence of the Lord as part of the communion sacrifice was thought to confirm and strengthen the union of the participants with one another and with God. Just as the ritual of eating together was considered a sacred event, so too was the food itself regarded as sacred. Sharing food was a visible means to experience God’s blessings and care.
Understandably then when our ancestral brothers and sisters in faith began to imagine and describe salvation and heaven, they did so in terms of a great feast prepared by God for humanity, a meal of juicy rich food and pure, choice wines. How could anyone refuse such an invitation to such a banquet?!
We are here because we have accepted God’s invitation to eat in God’s presence and with one another. Sharing of such a meal has its consequences of mutual care and commitment to one another.
But, there is also a theological principle at play here: grace builds upon nature. To better appreciate the spiritual (grace), what can we do to appreciate our food as being a sacred gift and our eating together a sacred event, not so much here at the altar table of the church but at the altar table of our home?
In Latin “cum pane” i.e. “with bread”