Food For Thought
The four food groups of physical nutrition are mirrored by the spiritual food groups where the most nourishing and necessary are the Bread of Life and the Fruit of The Vine.
The New Order has reversed the pyramid - inverting and perverting values and truths where the sour taste of sin is wrapped in attractive packaging in attempt to present a sweet facade which, like cotton candy will soon dissolve into the black void of nothingness and eternal damnation. That which is solid food - the Bread and the Wine, chosen by Christ are considered passé and no longer pleasing to the palate of the populous and the pompous. No wonder they are starved and wasting away.
"Once one has instilled a foundation of true Faith in Christ as The Bread of Life and God Almighty as The Goal of all endeavors and thoughts, once one has then seeded this foundation in rich soil and developed strong roots from which Christ as both The Vine and The Fruit of The Vine has developed and is seen in one's life and practice, then and only then come the obvious external and internal earthly needs which we all require."
We have all seen the food pyramid that shows us how to balance our nutrition such that we eat more of the most nutritious foods and less of the less nutritious foods. According to this pyramid,
we should eat about 6 servings of grains per day, 3 servings of vegetables, 2 servings of fruits, and 2 servings each of dairy and proteins/meats. Fats, oils and sweets, found at the top of the pyramid, should be eaten as little as possible. My wife, a Diabetes Educator, has told me that this pyramid is based on the notion that we need starches for energy and fiber for digestion, then vitamins, minerals, and protein for good health, proper immunity, strong bones, and proper growth. What we need the least of, of course, are such things as oils, fats, and sweets, which do little for us nutritionally despite their tasty traits. Recently, I was looking at this pyramid when I realized a spiritual version of that nutritional geometric shape!
Frequent Servings of Christ as The Bread of Life
We should obviously receive The Blessed Sacrament as often as possible during the week, for It is Christ Our Savior present as The Bread of Life to provide us with the energy and spiritual "fiber" needed to deal with and digest the onslaught of this world!
In addition to the actual reception of The Eucharist, however, we must add prayer as another form of sacrificial offering in personal or group form. In fact, we have a greater daily opportunity for prayer and meditation than for the reception of The Blessed Sacrament, and so we must take advantage of that opportunity. The connecting bond, of course, is prayer before The Blessed Sacrament, which is both a sacrificial offering and a visitation with Christ to keep Him company in a world that cares little for His loneliness and even increases it. Our belief in The Real Presence, of course, forms the basis of this core requirement in Catholic spiritual nutrition. It is easy to see why so many Catholics are spiritually starved given the ignorance and neglect most have with regard to this basic, central requirement of Catholic spiritual nutrition!
If we do not feed our spiritual needs with this basic groundwork in Catholic faith and belief, we will eventually feel that inner hunger which leads many to seek the kind of spiritual "junk food" so often seen in today's spiritual fast food market. How many times have we heard of people looking for meaning in their lives or searching for themselves or something to believe in? If you skip nutritious meals, you will become hungry and, once you are hungry, you may just grab whatever spiritual waste is convenient, popular, or quick. Without this key foundation, today's Catholics frequently feel their empty souls growling and, more often than not, they feel those souls with unhealthy substitute spiritual junk. Finally, this foundation is the cement that anchors all else to Christ as present in our lives both in The Tabernacle and in our prayer. Without this foundation, all else will be empty or weak.
The Fruit of the Vine
In addition to the basic spiritual foundation of Christ as The Bread of Life and sacrificial offering in The Blessed Sacrament and prayer mentioned above, the well-fed Catholic must allow The Blood of Christ to flow through his or her veins and unto his or her life and actions. It is not enough to internalize Christ through The Eucharist or prayer; we must also externalize the Christ Present in The Blessed Sacrament by living our lives with His example as a model. We must live a life of love, service, charity, mercy, thanksgiving, and sacrifice as Christ did so. If Christ is the Vine of Example, then, we must allow that example to branch out like branches into the different aspects of our lives such that our life in Christ will bear fruit in this world.
We know that fruits and vegetables are beautiful and healthy as seen growing from the soil, but their hidden roots go much deeper than their outward, external beauty and appearance. We also know that fruits and vegetables are an acquired taste, and that their true delicious nature is more appreciated once one makes them regular members of one's food lineup. Many people who dislike vegetables or ignore fruits do so because they have never developed the habit of including them in their diet. Those who claim that fruits and vegetables are boring or lack taste are simply talking out of ignorance of the varied and creative ways one can include them in one's diet. It is often said that parents must instill an appreciation of fruits and vegetables in their children from an early age or risk raising children and then adults who will never include these healthy foods in their diet. We know of the great variety in appearance, taste, and even style of eating that fruits and vegetables can take. From those that require peeling to those that are often eaten as is to those best cooked to those best eaten fresh and raw, these foods truly represent the varied and immense goodness of God Almighty's creation.
Lastly, we know that the quality of the soil will often determine the quality of the fruit or vegetable that grows from that soil, and hence part of growing healthy fruits and vegetables is nurturing a healthy and wholesome soil from which to grow these foods.
Like fruits and vegetables, our spiritual beliefs, Faith, and practice must be nurtured and developed in good, healthy soil with deep, strong roots. Here too, parents have a crucial role in developing a healthy appreciation and taste for living a life with Christ as the Model wherein He is truly the Fruit of The Vine which gives the wine of His Blood flowing through all of one's thoughts, actions, and values.
It is more difficult, although not impossible, to develop such an appreciation and taste for such a life if its value and practice has not been developed and maintained through childhood. Like fruits and vegetables, the more one lives a life of and for Christ, the easier it becomes to maintain such a life. Lastly, there is great variety in the ways in which one can live a life reflecting Christ within the one, true Faith.
Once one has instilled a foundation of true Faith in Christ as The Bread of Life and God Almighty as The Goal of all endeavors and thoughts, once one has then seeded this foundation in rich soil and developed strong roots from which Christ as both The Vine and The Fruit of The Vine has developed and is seen in one's life and practice, then and only then come the obvious external and internal earthly needs which we all require.
By external I mean shelter, clothing, tools, etc, needed to live in this world and by internal I mean food, drink and rest as required by our mortal bodies. These needs are subordinate to our spiritual ones noted in the earlier two levels because, as Christ often reminded us, the salvation of our souls is far more important than the salvation of our bodies, as well illustrated by the martyrs of our Faith. By the same token, it does little good for the spiritual if the physical, earthly needs are not met at least minimally since illness and death can help no spiritual endeavor.
Just as the dairy and meat/protein food groups provide us with energy, vitamins, and the means to grow and construct both ourselves and our world, so too our basic earthly needs provide us with the ability and strength to do God Almighty's Will and serve others as Christ did. This level is important but can never be more so than the two earlier spiritual levels for the reasons just stated.
The Sweet Temptations of This World
The nutritional pyramid places sweets, oils, and fats at the top of the pyramid because their number in our daily diet must be minimal in comparison to the greater amount and size of the other food groups. These foods are basically delicious and very tempting, but likewise very unhealthy to our bodies and can eventually kill us if we do not control our intake of these sweet poisons. Research has shown that their harm is two-fold.
First, they cause all sorts of problems directly in our bodies leading to heart disease, cancer and other disease. Secondly, and perhaps more insidiously, they replace our taste for healthy foods and can actually become addictive such that we cannot go long without partaking more and more of them. Hence, foods such as French fries or candy not only cause harm to us directly, but also fill us up such that we do not want to eat healthy foods. Also, one can certainly become more and more addicted to these foods, and even suffer withdrawal symptoms when deprived of them. We have all heard of a "sugar fix", for example.
These foods are not unlike cancer themselves in that they slowly fill our diet and push out the healthy foods until our diet becomes a slow suicide. As a teacher I have had students who ate candy for breakfast and could not go long without more candy. These poor students rarely ate good food and therefore we have poor health, obesity, diabetes, etc, in our youth like never before.
Like their nutritional counterparts, the sweet temptations of this earth rely on their sweet or attractive taste to lure us away from true spiritual health. Materialism, secularism, selfishness, excess, luxury, lust, etc, all entice us because we are, in the end, human and at least in part of this world. If we allow these evils to seep into our spiritual diet they will eventually replace and push out all good works, beliefs, and Faith itself.
Without even realizing it, we will become sin candy junkies hooked on wrong who do not see anything else but selfishness, greed, lust, and all other evils. While we cannot completely eliminate them from our table in this world, we can and must control and discipline our intake of these harmful spiritual foods or our soul will become ill and we may die to God.
A Balanced, Healthy Spiritual Diet
We see a society of obese, sickly, listless, unfocused people who poison their bodies daily with poor diet and unhealthy lifestyles. We also see many people who worship their bodies and diet but starve their spiritual souls and destiny. We many even know some people who practice their Faith, pray, and live good lives but do not take care of themselves in other ways eventually leading to illness or death. Obviously, none of these lifestyles is what Christ wants from us. What Our Lord does want, however, is a balanced lifestyle which provides us with the proper physical, external, and internal needs without going overboard in excess, overindulgence, greed, selfishness, and obsession with the material.
He wants us to develop balanced and healthy moral and physical lives free of lust and abuse of others and ourselves. Above all, He wants us to first develop a firm foundation in our Faith and a strong sense of how to practice and live that Faith in this world and help others do so as well. In a world of spiritual fast food trash, Christ wants us to begin by eating The Bread of Life, praying at the dinner table and elsewhere, feeding others as chefs of His brand of living, and proving that it is possible to have the best spiritual diet while still functioning in this most secular of kitchens.
It is no accident that the central events of our Faith involve a meal and a sacrifice, for the true Faith sees the former as the latter and The New Order only sees the meal. If we maintain this proper balance of priorities in our spiritual diet, we will always be able to say, "Thank you, Father, for this meal which I am about to receive…"
Editor's Note: We are pleased to announce Gabriel Garnica will be contributing many articles in 2004. Heaven is once again under attack by those who would seek to ignore and overthrow God's majesty and authority. Gabriel Garnica, educator and attorney, will submit regular insights and commentaries to remind and help guide readers toward a deeper and more assertive faith. Touching on topics and issues ranging from personal faith, doctrine, education, scripture, the media, family life, morality, and values, Gabriel's notes will be music to traditional ears but unpleasant tones to those who have bought into the misguided notions so prevalent and spreading in today's Catholic world.