Here is an article I wrote this summer for our Catholic Rural Life Magazine.
The Beauty of Being; The Wonder of Creation
The next time you sit down for a meal, take just a moment to be still; pray and give thanks to the God of all creation. Then, ask for the grace to simply be present to the moment, asking the Lord to help you come to a deeper consciousness of what is before you, even of the incredible gift of your person. It is also a good idea to recall the many people who are going without this basic sustenance this day, and to allow the hunger you experience before eating to be a moment of solidarity with all who will go without a meal this day.
Allow God to reveal again his faithful love for you, that love that created you before the foundation of the world. Recall that God formed you in your mother’s womb and the loving relationship of your parents that was the beginning of your worldly existence. How intricate is the human body, and the many orchestrated and harmonious functions that sustain one’s life; from the heart and lungs and the blood that flows throughout the body, to the skeletal frame and nerve system that support it, to the digestive system that can transform the food we eat into the useable forms of energy that sustain our life. Give thanks for the senses that allow us to take in everything around us, especially at this moment to be able to appreciate the beauty of the meal prepared, the smell of it and the taste that brings delight.
That meditation alone draws one deeper into the reality of God’s creative genius and providential love.
Then, take in the meal before you. How many million years prepared the soil that grew this food? How many hours of sunshine, days and night; gallons of water and rain were needed for its growth? How many continents are represented in your meal, and how many human hands did it take to prepare the soil, plant the seed, cultivate the plant, harvest the fruit, ship and prepare it for marketing, and finally prepare it for its presentation before you? How many various animals of God’s good creation are represented on the plate? How much of a combined effort of creation provided for the life and sustenance of these creatures? Who cared for them that they now provide for your nourishment?
What were the sources of and forms of energy used to prepare the food, from the freezer and refrigerator that preserved the food to the fires that cooked it to its present form?
Think of the ‘unity’ of God’s creation and the human labor represented in that one plate of food. Now consider how many meals have nourished your body, from your mother’s breast to this table of plenty? Now, think of the goodness of God and the work of human hands, and give thanks.
What person does not desire good health? And in order to maintain good health, we know we must maintain our body, or in other words, be a good steward of the body we have been given. After all, when God created the earth, he said it was ‘good.’ And, when God created man and woman, he said it is ‘very good!’ Proper health requires good diet, exercise, rest, and of course, a solid relationship with God.
Let’s take the good diet portion of this equation. We none of us eat spoiled food; we long for good fruit, vegetables and fresh meat and fish. If possible, and when possible, who does not prefer these foods fresh from the earth, not frozen or processed? Minimally, we do not put bad things into our bodies. So, if this is true about our diet, then being a good steward of the body also requires us to be good stewards of the earth, which grows and sustains the foods that nourish us.
If we would not put chemicals directly into our bodies, then why would we put them into the soil, or onto our plants, or in the foods of our cattle, chicken, pigs or fish? Being stewards of creation calls for concern about the quality of air, water and soil, and this particular focus is one of the reasons I so enjoy my work with and the work of Catholic Rural Life (CRL). Stewardship of creation is an area of concern, teaching and activity that is of great importance for those who work for and are members of CRL.
Jesus also told us that ‘Man does not live on bread alone,’ which means that as important as food is to the body, the true banquet is Christ himself. A reflection similar to the one just described is also just as beneficial when applied to the Eucharist. This, too, helps to root us in gratitude not only for God’s work of creation, but of his equally great work of redemption.