John: I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread that come down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
Ephesians: Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up or us; a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Food. I believe it occupied so much of our lives these past 17 months. I personally became tired of cooking. Tired of the tried-and-true recipes, and tired of trying new recipes that failed. There was rarely full joy in cooking and eating as time went on.
Some of you know that my mother was ethnically full-blooded Italian. Her chicken cacciatore was outstanding! A cousin’s spouse was so very sad when Mom died, he said never again would he have chicken cacciatore that good. Her lasagna – wonderful! Her spaghetti and meatballs – good. Her sister Rose’s was much, much better.
Yet, it is her Bolognese sauce that brings me real joy. She started it before we went to church on Sunday mornings and when we returned, the house was filled with the first stages of its cooking. She tasted, adjusted, and stirred all afternoon. By the time we reached Sunday dinner at 4:00p, it was incredible. Our neighbors were jealous of the aroma.
My best memory is when my younger older brother asked Mom to teach him how to make her sauce. Sure, maybe he’d get a wife that way.
She started with the tomatoes and crushed them down. She then added the herbs, it was winter so they were dried. This much oregano, this much basil this much – wait Mom wait – how much is that? What do you mean, this much! You see, she was pouring the herbs into her palm, not measuring them. He was asking, so how much is that? This Much! How could he replicate it – she was 5’3”, he is 6’1” – their hand sizes are not the same. So much laughter that day! My younger sister and I were the only other kids home at that time. We enjoyed watching Mom and Sean work through this.
I figured it out by trial and error. I now have a recipe that I would serve to anyone (!) who comes to my table. I share this meal with those who could use a meal due to good times and not so good times. And every time I make that sugo, I think back to Mom teaching us. The meal tastes better and the gathering with others we love is more joyful. We are fed in body, in love, and in joy. The days are better.
In these last 17 months, we all missed being able to gather around the table and be together. We needed that to be healthy and happy.
That is the same way that Jesus first reached out to those who were thrown away by society: the lepers, the widows, the homeless, the addicted. He sat down and ate with them. This horrified the leaders of state and synagogue. But Jesus knew what it meant to eat as a community, as a family. Your joy, your worth – was immeasurable. When He would do this, He was using the food for the body – the same as the manna that was eaten in the desert – to bring all together. To show that He and God saw all of them as worthy of God’s love and salvation. It was Jesus’ way of leading us to the ultimate table to eat as one body, as one community, where we would receive the food that would lead us to eternal life.
In the last 17 months, we had the food to take care of us bodily. It is in line with the manna that was eaten in the wilderness that John refers to. It would not give us eternal life, but we would survive in this life. Then, we will die.
And now – NOW we are able to take a place at the table that Jesus created for us to take part in the ultimate meal. To share in THE Bread, partaking in the Eucharist. Food that we could not have in the last 17 months as we cared for ourselves and each other in keeping distance and praying in unique ways together. Once again, we can safely share in the food that our souls need. Food that takes care of us each day, and leads us to our life ever after. We are doing this together. We are at this table, again. We are sharing in joy what the Eucharist means to each of us and to how we are together.
In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. This puzzled me and I ‘googled’ it. This refers to the idea of a sweet-smelling offering in the tabernacle or temple. I thought back to the herbs and oils that were used to bury Jesus with. Think now how we enter our church and smell the wood, the candles burning and it brings us back into a safe and nurturing place. All of this is a reminder of how all of our senses play into our understanding a moment in in our lives, moments that transport us. A fragrant offering: wood, candles…Bolognese.
As we pray at the end of the Eucharist – we are grateful to be fed with the spiritual food of the Body and for the assurance we receive that we are living members of the Body of God’s Son and heirs of God’s eternal kingdom.
The Word made flesh. The flesh sacrificed. The sacrifice represented in the bread. The bread God has sent to us through God’s Son’s sacrifice to lead us to salvation.
We eat as one. As we say among my family – eat well.