I’m currently spending two weeks at Behtlehem Farm. If you’ve never heard of the place stay TUNED our podcast hitting next weekend will tell you all about them!
The Farm is a wonderful place though. It sits upon some of the most beautiful land our country has, and is all together an amazing place to reflect, to pray, and to work. When volunteers and group weeks come through the Farm discusses eating as a moral act. They try to show those passing through how what we choose to eat affects the whole of God’s creation. From farm to table, they take volunteers through the process of how creation is often harmed by what it is we put in our body, and ironically creation is continued to be harmed in our own humanity as we eat things that often are a detriment to our health.
I can tell you, some of the best meals I’ve had have been on the Farm. There’s something to be said about food that is literally picked from the garden moments before it enters the ingredient list for that day’s meal. This has also caused me to kick around a hypothesis that I’d like to share with all of you. We often talk about how there are so many things in modern society that take us away from God. Conservative Christians sometimes blast popular culture, entertainment: music, movies, tv and the like as eroding our societal values and also causing us to replace God with things that are so much less important. While some of this is often true, I think the biggest thing that has caused us to push God out of our modern lives is what we eat and how we prepare it.
The average American is incredibly ignorant about our food chain. We have no idea how food goes from soil to our plates, and genuinely we just don’t want to know. Furthermore we are also incredibly unaware of how much our daily sustenance and life hangs on the balance of nature, on forces we do not control. I’m throughly convinced that our lack of knowledge and understanding of the basics of our food supply has a huge correlation with the decline of faith in our country. The fact is without clean water and properly grown and raised food we would all cease to be. We know this on a certain level, and we understand it – but we’re incredibly blind when it comes to coming to grips with the enormity of it. What is man that God pays attention to us? Can we cause it to rain so our crops can be watered and the harvest can happen? Can we order our seasons to ensure our crops will grow correctly, and be ready to be put on our table? Can we do any of these things?
We’ve become a drive thru nation. Our service based culture has extended into our kitchens, the hearts of our homes, and now take -out or ordering-in rules our day. Eating has become a chore, or something tacked on in our days. We get our food from god knows where, and just continue on with out busyness. And all the while we don’t realize how very powerless we are to even sustain our own lives, how absolutely dependent we are on the whole of creation to stay ordered and in balance so that we can continue living.
This then can also seep into Mass. When was the last time we really took a step back and thought hard and long about the “presentation of the Gifts?” The bread and wine shared at the altar no longer consist of the fruit of our labor, of our fields, of our vine. Totally lost is the offering of the people to God as a pleasing sacrifice so He can in turn offer His Spirit to change them into the Real Presence. No our hosts and our wine have just turned into a catalog number in a religious goods catalog. Our presentation of the Gifts simply another task to be checked off by our Sacristarians and Liturgy coordinators. And so, our understanding of God’s call to participate in the Eucharist is dimmed to the point of being snuffed out.
We can decry a “secular” culture all we want for giving us profane entertainment and banal celebrities, but let’s instead take a look at what it is we’re feeding our bodies, what it is we’re putting on the table, and how absolutely dependent on God we are to sustain our physical well being. From there let us remember and never forget the amazing call to participation that God gives to us in the Eucharist. God, in his infinite wisdom, chose the most basic of human necessities to portray the most profund moment of human history. Our spiritual sustenance is found in the Eucharist. Let us not allow this seepage to continue. Let us eat morally, let us contemplate our need for God both for our physical and spiritual sustenance, and let us reflect on how both of those things start with the work of human hands.