by Father Mark Goldasich
Last week, I was chatting on the phone with a longtime college friend in Minnesota. As we meandered from topic to topic, Ann stopped me cold with:
“You know who I blame for the obesity epidemic in our country? Jesus!”
It’s lucky that I wasn’t eating or drinking something at the time because I probably would have choked on it.
She went on to explain.
“Just think about it for a minute. Of course, we have the Eucharist, which obviously is a meal. But most of the other sacraments also involve food. Usually, after the baptism of a child, the family has folks over for a meal or refreshments. After a wedding or an ordination, there’s a reception. After a confirmation, there’s at least punch and cake. See? Jesus is responsible for our overeating!”
We had a good laugh about that, but it did give me (ahem) food for thought. At the parish, we always offer a funeral dinner for the mourners. After our recent Masses for first Communion and graduation — yup, there was a reception with cookies, cake and punch. We have coffee, doughnuts and cookies after all the Masses on the first weekend of the month. And the parish has a sign-up sheet in the hallway for our upcoming parish picnic in June.
Gee, when we gather as a family of faith for whatever reason, there usually is food involved. And don’t we refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God and the bread of life? And wasn’t an early Christian symbol for Jesus a fish — ichthus in Greek; its letters shorthand for Jesus Christ, Son of God, savior. And don’t forget all of that wine that Jesus provided at the wedding in Cana. Hey, maybe Jesus is responsible after all.
Seriously, Jesus reminds us that food is often more than nourishment for our bodies. It’s an opportunity for people to share their time, their stories and their lives.
But food isn’t just shared in our homes or churches. Very often, we head out to eat. And it’s in that venue that even Christians can show their uglier side. Several years ago, a pastor in St. Louis scribbled this nasty note on her Applebee’s receipt after dining with a party of 10: “I give God 10 percent, why do you get 18?”
That incident prompted Pastor Chad Roberts of Preaching Christ Church in Tennessee to put up a website in 2014, entitled “Sundays Are The Worst.” He invited waitresses and waiters to submit their stories of “Christians behaving badly” when dining out after church. The site got some 70,000 hits from February to April that year and each story of “condescending, arrogant or rude behavior” received a personal apology from Roberts’ church. The purpose of the website was simple: “We want to make Christians aware that how they treat people, especially on Sunday, matters.”
Here’s one of the stories: “Overall, I believe the worst part about restaurant working on Sunday mornings is the look people give you. The “I-can’t-believe-you’re here-instead-of-church” look. . . . Let’s be honest: I’d rather be in church. But I’m a college student in debt until I’m 57 and I don’t have the luxury to not work.
“I go to a Christian university and live in the heart of the Bible Belt so it is not uncommon to find a gospel tract instead of a tip inside the check book. . . . Please stop being ignorant. God asks you for 10 percent of your entire income. . . . We are asking for a measly 15-20 percent of your bill. There’s a HUGE difference.”
When we talk of evangelization, many people think of formally teaching the truths of our faith in some fashion. At least initially, I’m of the opinion that faith is more caught than taught. How we treat others after church, when so many do dine out, can be a simple but effective way to share our faith through exemplary behavior.
This coming Sunday, May 21, is an obscure, but needed, holiday: National Waiter and Waitress Day. Celebrate it by going out to eat (duh!), leaving a generous tip and complimenting your server.
Don’t forget: Jesus showed us that it’s better to serve, than to be served. As Christians, let’s act like we truly believe that . . . especially when dining out.