Have you ever noticed how many stories in the Scriptures are focused on food? We really should not be too surprised by this fact. The people who populate the pages of the Word of God did not have the convenience of stocked refrigerators and pantries. They were nomads and peasants. Their diet was what we would call a subsistence diet. They had just enough to keep them going until the next meal which they oftentimes had no idea about where it would come from. Bread was the staple of their diet. Meat was a delicacy. An occasional vegetable or fruit would also be available.
The search for their next meal would often be the catalyst for the interaction between God and the community. That is certainly the case in today’s reading from the Book of Numbers as well as the Gospel selection for this Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time.
Given the number of time that we read about food and eating and drinking in the Scriptures, it should also be very evident that God would use food and drink (bread and wine) as the focus of our faith. The Real Presence of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine has been called the source and summit of our faith. God is present to us in the guise of food.
Some of the great conversion stories of our faith focus on the Eucharist. Many who have found their way to the Catholic Church have done so because they have found the Eucharist sustains them, fortifies their faith which is so often battered and ignored in our present world. The Eucharist is real “comfort food.” It reminds us that God is with us, that Jesus has not abandoned us, and that we are bound together in a community of faith by the table of the Lord.
Food is still an important component of our human lives. Scan the pages of Facebook and other social media outlets and notice how many of the postings are about recipes, about feeding the poor, about the politics of food stamps. Think about family gatherings. Are they not always about sharing a meal with those we love? Consider the errands you will run this week. I’ll bet at least one visit to the grocery store is on your list of things to do. When we consider a night of recreation with family or friends, doesn’t it always include a visit to a favorite restaurant or “watering hole”? Isn’t it fair to say that our lives revolve around food just as much as the lives of the Israelites revolved around it?
The next time you receive communion, stop for a moment and give thanks for the food which God provides for our journeys, both our physical and our spiritual journey through life.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator