Those who know me will often hear me speak about “family, faith, and food,” when describing the things which I hold most dear. Some may say that this is more rooted in my culture as an Italian-American than it is in the foundations of my Catholicism, but I don’t agree with that. Throughout the gospels, Jesus is surrounded by family, moved by faith, and uses food to unite them both. Based on the gospels there is nothing more fundamental to being a follower of Jesus, even today, than family, faith, and food.
The family is important to Jesus. This does not just mean those whom you are biologically linked to, but also those who become your family, those whom you love. Jesus is undoubtedly linked to his mother Mary who he offers to us as our mother as well, but he is also linked to his followers and friends. Jesus shows us time and again how much God values family relationships. This can best be seen in the most important miracles Jesus performed, raising someone from the dead. In all of these incidents Jesus performs this great miracle in the context of a family. It was the widow who asked that her son be brought back to life, Jairus asked for his daughter to be brought back and Mary and Martha asked that their brother Lazarus be raised from the dead. The relationships which form family bonds moves the God who is the relationship itself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to make all things possible.
Faith is what is needed to gain a place in heaven. Here too, throughout scripture Jesus tells those in need that it is their faith which heals them. Jesus is very clear that it is not physical strength, intellectual genius or authoritative power which can move a mountain, but it is faith, even as little as the size of a mustard seed, which can do it. Having a strong faith is all that God asks of us, but it means trusting and giving over your own will to God. These things are not easy to do in a society which places so much focus on self-help, being self-made and getting what we want when we want it. But this is why the Gospels are so radically counter cultural to our present age. Jesus says that we must give to receive, die to our will in order to live forever, and it is only when we have faith that we can come to understand these contradictions and allow God to be Lord of our lives.
As Catholics, we believe that all creation is a gift including nature, our body, and the animals and plants which we call food. They are gifts to be respected but also enjoyed. Jesus himself uses food countless times through the gospels in order to demonstrate the self-giving love of God. Jesus’ first public miracle occurred at a wedding when the guests needed more wine and his mother had faith that he would provide it. The first followers Jesus called to be his apostles were brothers in the food industry, fishermen! Jesus instructed them on how to catch more fish as a sign which would inspire trust and faith in him. Jesus also multiplied the loaves and fishes, feeding thousands who had come to listen to him in faith, many of whom would become his family of believers. Most importantly Jesus leaves for us not a statue of himself, or a painting, but he leaves for us his body and blood, the holy Eucharist, as his perpetual presence among us which we eat and drink.
Breaking Bread Together
Faith and family come together when we break bread. Jesus knew this because he knows us. As Christians we are called not to practice our faith alone in solitude, even the monks live in community. Today it is more important than ever to strengthen the bonds of family and come together to share faith as many in our society have become isolated and families have become divided. Food is one thing that most of us can agree on; it is one of the things that we all need. Sharing food, even when we disagree about politics or religion, reminds us of our commonality as human beings. We can use this foundation to grow the bonds of family and even explore our faith in God and serve one another. As followers of Jesus we are called to share in the experience of our faith with our family, nourishing it and helping it to grow. This is a challenge but one that is made easier when it is done with a good meal.
Keep learning about family, faith, and food in Monsignor Jamie’s new book, Breaking Bread with Monsignor Jaime: From Feeding the Body to Feeding the Soul. Click HERE to learn more.