Speaking to the Soul: Eat, eat!

by Sarah Brock

Today’s Readings:
AM  Psalm 56, 57, 58    PM  Psalm 64, 65
Jeremiah 1:11-19; Romans 1:1-15;

John 4:27-42

Normally, I find great comfort in the cluelessness of Jesus’ disciples. I find it reassuring to note that even those who had the privilege of journeying with Jesus during his life so often missed the point. However, this is one of the few moments in the Gospel where I find the message of the disciples just as poignant as that of Jesus.

Today we encounter a short vignette of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples within the larger story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan women at the well. The woman has just left Jesus to gather the people of her city to come and meet him. The disciples, having arrived during this encounter, urge him to eat something.

I can’t help but conjure up the image of a stereotypical grandmother here. Perhaps you’ve encountered the type I’m referring to either in your own family or that of a good friend or, at the very least, in a movie. ‘Eat, eat,’ she urges family, guests, and strangers alike.

But, Jesus declines. Utterly confusing his friends by telling them he already has food they don’t know about. Going on to explain that engaging in the mission of God is his sustenance. And, while I certainly don’t deny that this is important, life-sustaining, soul-nourishing work, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Jesus is the one missing the point here. Or perhaps, it is the context of our society that lends wisdom to the concern of the disciples in this instance.

My chosen practice of fasting this season has made me increasingly aware of the ways hunger effects a person. It makes me feel less focused, less passionate, and less energized in my work. And, if I don’t keep my attitude and emotional state in check, I get hangry real quick. However, even in my chosen fasting, I have never known true hunger. I’ve never been hungry enough to consume spoiled food, dig through trash cans, or binge eat when the opportunity arises not knowing when or where I might eat again.

Surrounded in my neighborhood by an abundance of high quality grocery stores and many farmer’s markets, it’s easy to forget that there are many who travel miles by foot or bus to acquire healthy food for their families. It’s easy for me to forget about the ‘food deserts’ where there is no convenient access to fresh produce.

I’m inspired by those of you who faithfully dedicate your time to preparing and serving community meals, creating and maintaining community gardens, petitioning grocery stores to open in areas of high need, serving at food pantries, or teaching people how to prepare healthy meals. So, while I agree with Jesus that laboring with God and nourishing my own soul and that of others is essential, this is work that cannot be done well on an empty stomach. I am inclined, in this instance, to stand with the disciples, to stand with the grandmothers, saying ‘eat, eat.’ And then, as bellies are filled, souls too can be nourished.

 


Sarah Brock is entering postulancy in the Diocese of Massachusetts and lives in Boston.

Image Credit: My own.