The Gospel, According to a Foodie

Catholic FOCUS Missionaries Like Food

I might be manly beyond belief, but I have deep respect for baked goods. 

Another little tidbit about your local missionary: I really like to eat.

This fondness for eating goes far beyond what is necessary. There are so many things about eating that I like; the suspense right before taking a bite (it gets intense with my cooking), the taste-testing, the chewing, the savoring, the satisfaction, the gratitude to the chef… It’s the small things.

Whenever I taste something I really like I often never can get enough of it (I do not know if this is healthy). Heck, in my bio I even put eating my grandmother’s banana cake as one of my hobbies (I am unashamed… it is not of this world). It is easy for me to indulge until the source runs out or until I make myself sick. I am always on a quest for complete fulfillment.

I am learning that if I really like something I need to try to justify it. Listen, I am not a glutton… As Christians, everything we do needs to be centered on Christ, right? Well, I have reconciled my appetite for grandma’s banana cake with the Cross (just try to imagine my excitement!):

  • Suspense – Faith is a calculated risk.
  • Taste-testing – Judgment. “I know your works, I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish -you were either cold or hot. So, you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”  – Revelations 3:15-16
  • Chewing – Reflecting on Scripture/lives of Saints
  • Savoring – Meditation on the Word
  • Satisfaction – “I came so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10
  • Gratitude – Praise God! Eucharist = Thanksgiving

Eating: an analogy for encountering and receiving Jesus Christ.

I love the taste of inspiration the most; stories of the Saints, dynamic speakers, music that has the right amount of soul, retreat “highs”, Fr. Mike’s homilies… I am what you could call a “goose-bump junkie”. I am all about the igniter, I am all about the spark, the splash, the trigger (I think you get the picture).   

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed are they who takes refuge in Him. (Psalms 34:8)

Theologian Rudolf Otto has a theory that really resonates with this hunger. He calls it the “Numinous”. The “Numinous” is summed up by the phrase, “Mysterium tremendum et fascinans” (fearful and fascinating mystery). This is an explanation for the craving we have to encounter the God.

An encounter with God is mysterious! Has anyone ever cooked you something that took a lot of courage to try? Sometimes those dishes have everything that we like, and yet we still question it. This is wonderfully analogous with the Catholic Church’s “both/and” explanation of faith and reason. When we allow God to give us a taste of His mystery we discover what we have been missing out on and we cannot get enough. This “wholly other” experience mystifies us and draws to a deep, meaningful and true hunger.

This encounter is tremendously scary! Our hunger for fulfillment is real. God’s majesty, in its simplest forms, reminds us of our nothingness and of our dependence on Him. The promise is fulfillment, however, there is a very natural demonic dread that there is a possibility I won’t experience Heaven. No question our Lord is a loving Father, but He is also demanding. He knows our potential. The Lord is like that coach from Remember the Titans, He demands perfection (Matthew 5:48). This can be overwhelming, but good in that it heightens a sense of urgency. How even more wonderful is it when He reminds us over and over to “Be not afraid.” In Him we are made perfect.

This encounter is fascinating! It is far too easy to become bored due to the over-stimulation which is a byproduct of today’s culture. Pizza is great, but pizza every day is not so great. We are always seeking new ways to fulfill our desires. Perhaps we need a new appetite. If we were to take to heart the truth of His Word. If we were to allow ourselves to be astounded by His promises made complete in the Sacraments our lives would come alive with purpose and fascination. If we ask, the Lord will “give us this day our daily bread.”

When I was young and innocent I sought wisdom. She came to me in her beauty and until the end I will cultivate her… My whole being was stirred to seek her; therefore I have made her my prize possession. (Sirach 51: 13, 21)

When the prophet Sirach speaks of the Wisdom of God he reveals that those “goose-bump” moments we experience when we experience the Lord’s beauty are an affirmation that we have found what we have always been looking for. It would be inappropriate to never cultivate any glimpse or taste of the Mystery. These are gifts from God. We must have the courage to respond with a gracious and confident heart. Growth in virtue, wonder, understanding and love are necessary for our nourishment. Our current circumstance is the best circumstance to begin our quest for fulfillment. As the prophet continues, “Work at your task in due season, and in His own time God will give you your reward.” (Sirach 51:30)

(The female pronoun used in Sirach is so perfect for the heart of a man. Fellas, ever see a pretty lady and fail to have courage enough to talk to her? Even though woman fascinate men, they are a scary mystery.)

To fall in love with God is the greatest romance, to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement. – St. Augustine

As our Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross, the sins of humankind, our sins, caused the Source of our livelihood to cry out, “I thirst.” As His wounds caused His thirst, so too, our wounds cause us to thirst. Let us hunger and thirst no more. Our Lord gives more than just a taste, He quenches our thirst. He feeds us with the Finest Wheat. He daily nourishes us. In His Body and Blood, in His Word and Truth we discover complete fulfillment.

How long will you deprive yourself of wisdom’s food, how long endure such bitter thirst? (Sirach 51:24)

Contact a missionary! Join a Bible study!