Today marks forty days that I have been staying at home. It reminds me that the number 40 is significant in the Bible. It refers to “a very large and indeterminate number”. Noah experienced rain for 40 days and 40 nights; the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years; Jesus spent 40 days in the desert in fasting and prayer. Following each of these periods, a different way of life emerged: Noah and his family started life afresh without all any unnecessary baggage; the Israelites found milk and honey in the Promised Land; and, Jesus was prepared for a life of public ministry very different from his previous private life. I think you see where I am going with this!
Hopefully, we are looking at our coronavirus desert/wilderness in matters of days and not years. We are still mourning the loss of our previous way of life – as evidenced by postings on Facebook. Even the humor, for example, the Mona Lisa with an inch grey roots in her lovely hair, is a way of dealing with grief. We are eager to return to our previous “normal” way of life.
Yet, we should not lose patience and try to hurry the process. We need time to: 1) accept the fact that there is no return to what was – and that may be a good thing; and, 2) prepare for what life has in store for us once we do leave our homes. I recognize that this is a difficult time for most people. For me, it has been a blessing. I thrive in quiet and solitude, and I have sufficient resources to live a simply life at home. These 40 days have given me time to read and replenish the well of my spiritual life. Hopefully, I am taking advantage of the time to prepare for life post-quarantine.
In a post on Holy Thursday, I recommended a book:
The Meal That Reconnects: Eucharistic Eating and the Global Food Crisis by Mary E. McGann (Liturgical Press, 2020).
In The Meal That Reconnects, Dr. Mary McGann, RSCJ invites readers to a more profound appreciation of the sacredness of eating, the planetary interdependence that food and the sharing of food entails, and the destructiveness of the industrial food system that is supplying food to tables globally. She presents the food crisis as a spiritual crisis — a call to rediscover the theological, ecological and spiritual significance of eating and to probe its challenge to Christian eucharistic practice.
McGann’s book led me to another great book:
To the Table: A Spirituality of Food, Farming, and Community by Lisa Graham McMinn (Brazos Press, 2015).
To the Table takes us on a practical and personal journey into the joys and trials of growing, cooking, preserving, and sharing food. Here we see that food is not reducible to a commodity but is instead the tasty medium of God’s love for the whole creation. With inspiring and illuminating stories and astute cultural analysis, McMinn shows us how the whole of eating can be a sacramental act that brings healing to our hungry and hurting world. (Norman Wirzba, author of Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating)
I am completing my notes on these books, and hope to share more of McGann’s and McMinn’s insights in the coming weeks.
It is particularly appropriate that today’s Scripture reading is about the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35) Might we expand our thinking about bread to include the growing of grains, baking, and equitable distribution of bread in the next 40 days?