Have you tried to lose weight as a Catholic and struggled?
Or should I rephrase that – have you, a Catholic, tried to lose weight and struggled? Because perhaps your struggling is a direct result of doing so whilst separating your faith from your battle?
Food is The Temptation; it was in the garden…
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”Genesis 3
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.
5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
It was for the Israelites when they were in the desert…
4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!Numbers 11
5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.
6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
It was for the new Church….
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.Philippians 3
16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.
18For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.
And it is for us.
Notice how in everyone of these incidents it is food that separates men from God. Whether it is Eve, directly going against the wishes of God, or the Israelites who choose food over God; even in the first stages of the Church, facing danger, they choose food over God.
What I find striking about all three of these passages is that each one is turning away from the reality of either paradise or the miraculous within their midst. Adam and Eve are in the Garden. The Israelites have just been released from slavery, witnessing astonishing and miraculous events. The early Church have just witnessed a ministry of miracles and a man rise from the dead. Yet, after all of this they think – but that cake looks tasty doesn’t it?
Ok, I’m playing fast and loose with the facts – but isn’t that what the outcome of what they do means?
As Christians we walk with God and we have stayed, moderately, faithful because – why? If you are like me it’s because you know it is true. I know the Gospel is true in two ways.
The first was an intellectual assessment. When I saw what Jesus preached, and I compared this with other religions and other philosophies, I found it to be counterintuitive, yet history has shown it to be true. Yes, there have been times that the Church hasn’t lived up to the message (50% of the time? 60%?). Nevertheless the message not just to love your neighbour, but bless those who persecute you has shown itself to be true.
The second way I know the Gospel is true is because of what my bridegroom is like. Don’t you think the allegory of a Bride and her Groom is perfect for Christian faith? When we fall in love and choose a spouse it’s not really like it is in a movie is it? We assess them, just like we assess the validity of the Gospel.
We evaluate their values, their morals. Do they align with ours? Do they behave as they say they will behave?
Then, the second part, is how do they treat us? Do they love us like 1 Corinthians 13? Or is it lust disguised as love?
A wife in a good marriage trusts her husband because he has shown himself to be worthy of trust.
In our relationship with Christ, in spite of the fact that we are the inferior partner, we trust our spouse because He shows He is worthy of the trust when we engage in a relationship with Him.
He cares for us. He provides for our needs (even if not necessarily our wants) and we see this more and more as our relationship continues. Those answered prayers, His miraculous Peace in times of trouble, the times He doesn’t give us what we want but what we need!
Like all marriages there are times when communication between the spouses is tense, where we doubt His love because He is not behaving exactly as we want at that exact time! Yet, over the length of our relationship the pattern of a good husband emerges and our trust deepens.
In all of this, as I just said, I know I am the inferior partner. The handmaid of the Lord. Yet…..if I’m honest, I’m not a very good handmaid. I don’t serve Him well. I don’t show Him the reverence or respect I should. In fact, I often find myself running off to serve other masters. One of the main ones I serve is food. I’ll go into this in a little more detail in the next post, but let me tell you how I know in one way that this is the case.
Have you ever tried to do the Friday fast and struggled? Perhaps you disregard it considering it pointless – why does giving up meat on a Friday make any difference to God? However these passages should be starting to let us know how food, or more importantly our desire for pleasure, can lead us away from the path of God to the wider one of self.
I struggle with the Friday fast. I can almost hear Satan say “Does God really not want you to not eat meat on a Friday? It doesn’t make any difference to Him what you eat. Your denying yourself makes no sense.”
I have a wealth of food around me, but like Eve I suddenly find myself ignoring all the other fruit, focusing instead on the fruit from that one tree.
Why did early man, inspired by the Holy Spirit and grappling with the nature of humanity, focus on food? Well, if you think about it in a society which worked hard for its food greed was a self evident sin. Not so much in our society. When we over eat and indulge the neighbour we are hurting is not always so obvious.
However we are left with not just an increasing waistline; deteriorating health, a family that doesn’t eat as well as they should with a parental role model that doesn’t show the way, turning from God to food for comfort…..all sins of the collateral damage indulgences cause.
None of this is good.
I’m publishing this just prior to the first Friday of the month. Today I’ve been to confession and I’m going to mass as part of the First Friday Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I’m offering the mass in reparation to the Heart of Jesus – in particular when I and others have chosen are appetites over loving Him. When we have turned to food to give us comfort when we should turn to Him.
Next post I will be talking about how I started to have boundaries on what food I could eat and when; in other words, which fruit from which trees I could consume, and which I decided that God was telling me not to.
If you choose to join me on this journey I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you believe that your battle with food was a spiritual battle? What guidelines do you use to determine what is acceptable to eat, and what isn’t?
As ever I’m inviting you to hit the subscribe button and follow on social media. I’ll follow straight back and, whatever way you choose to engage, I’m looking forward to going on this journey of liberation with you. In the meantime…