In his book, The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell writes this about our eating habits. “None of us would be here if we weren’t forever eating. What you eat is always something that just a moment before was alive. This is the sacramental mystery of food and eating, which doesn’t often come to our minds when we sit ourselves down to eat. If we say grace before meals, we thank [God] for our food. But in earlier mythologies, when people sit down to eat, they would thank the animal they were about to consume for having given of itself as a willing sacrifice.”
Throughout the gospels, we read about Jesus eating with others. He eats with the Pharisees. He has a meal with Zacchaeus. Peter’s mother-in-law serves Jesus a meal after she is cured. Jesus even has a meal with five thousand people out on a hillside. After his resurrection, Jesus breaks bread with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus. He appears to the disciples who are behind closed doors in Jerusalem and asks them if they have anything to eat. Jesus invites the Apostles to leave their fishing boat and to join him on the shore where fish are being prepared on a charcoal fire.
If we look closely at what takes place at all these meals, I think you would agree that Jesus was not concerned about what was being served but who was being served and how they were being served. Jesus was not concerned with the blending of foods to bring out their rich flavors. He was concerned with the blending of people to share their valuable gifts. At the meals, no one was excluded by Jesus. The poor, the outcast, the rich, the righteous, the lost, and the forsaken were all invited to come together, to share, and to eat.
When questioned by the Pharisees why he ate with everyone, Jesus encouraged the Pharisees to look at themselves to discover that they too had the same physical and spiritual hunger found in all human beings—the hunger to be accepted, the hunger to be loved, the desire to feed other people.
As we sit down to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends, or as we join other volunteers to serve a Thanksgiving meal, or if we miss out on a Thanksgiving meal because of our responsibilities, our gratefulness for all that we have surely begins with thanking the animal we are about to consume, thanking people with whom we share the same needs, and most certainly thanking God for showing us what it means to be grateful through Jesus his son.
Fr. Bob Kelly, OP