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‘Take and eat.’ The food-faith connection and Jesus

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Today’s reader question is one I had hoped to address during the CNN interview, but we ran out of time. So I’m happy to address it now. Here’s the question:

“Someone told me that every time Jesus had an important teaching, food was present. Do you think He was just getting people to listen or is there something special about eating together when we pray?”

Some people, when they first hear that I wrote a book about the connection between food and faith, get a quizzical look on their face. Sort of like, “What are you talking about, and how could you write an entire book on that?” But I don’t have to get too far into the conversation before the “Aha!” look takes over.

Catholics, if nothing else, are a people linked in powerful ways to food. After all, our very faith orbits around the ultimate food — Jesus, in the form of bread and wine. Every Mass is a meal, a feast, a celebration. So, yeah, there’s a food-faith connection for us.

But if we look back into Scripture, it’s clear that this connection goes back long before the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding feast. He fed the 5,000 by multiplying loaves and fishes so that there wasn’t just enough; there were 12 baskets leftover. He sat down to dinner with sinners and saints, and his disciples recognized him in the breaking of the bread.

Food — or, more accurately, meals — bring people together. Around the kitchen table we build community, strengthen family bonds, and grow in love and faith. Jesus reminds us that eating together, breaking bread, is an important part of our social lives and our faith lives, especially when we begin with a blessing and give thanks to God at the outset.

Whether you are sitting down to a Monday night supper with your family or hosting a big feast for your friends, look at it through the prism of faith. What can you do to foster love and gratitude and friendship around your table? It’s not just about the food; it’s about the mindful attitude that goes into it.

“Take and eat….” Jesus gave us this instruction, and we imitate him, not just at Mass when we receive him into our bodies, but in the everyday moments of our lives when we bring that faith to bear in the world around us. Isn’t it awesome that sitting down to a good meal can be part of that?

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