JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
Sometimes the spiritual journey is difficult to quantify and to express. Although we often wish to describe it in sugary sweet terms, those who have been on the journey long enough know that in between one's visits with our Beloved into the gardens of sweet pomegranates, spiced wine, apples and raisin cake, we are often chewing on crusts of old dry bread that has lost its delectable fresh flavor and warm perfumed scent long ago.
I admit that I like to think about food a lot. I know in spiritual terms, aesthetics would tell me that I need to suppress these sensory pleasures and become detached from this earthly distraction. To that I reply that this is a fair assertion and that there is definitely a time and season for all things. Fasting comprises an integral part of the spiritual life, but so does feasting. As a matter of fact, Jesus conveyed more of his teachings during meals with his disciples, sinners and even his would-be enemies, than perhaps at any other time. This is because a shared meal is unifying and nourishing in mind, body, soul, and spirit. People are gathered together to communicate and listen. Enough said about that.
I further confess that I am a closet Food Network fan and frequent viewer, and choose to allow my brain to vegetate (no pun intended) at the end of the day to Chopped and Sweet Genius with my kids. (No objectionabe content is on these shows:) These two programs are similar in their structure. One is given a basket of secret and seemingly unrelated and strange ingredients, and the competing chefs are asked to come up with a creative and tasty dish to some sort of theme. For example, on Chopped the first four contestants might be asked to prepare an appetizer using pig's feet, marmalade jam, creamed corn, and rose petals. In 20 minutes they are expected to repurpose these disparate ingredients into palatable and visually pleasing dish for the judges. Sweet Genius focuses on desserts and one must create a chocolate, a cake, and candy in three different rounds with variety of wild food items. It is quite fun and amazing to see what they come up with and how this motley assortment of goods is transformed into delightful and delectable dishes!
Sometimes when assessing my own basket of virtues and vices, spiritual gifts and shortcomings, and diverse personality traits that include the good, the bad, and the ugly, I am at a loss. Although God has given everything I need and every good gift to reach divine intimacy with Him, I still hold onto the ingredients present in my soul that want to be the spoilers. The passions, attachments, and bad habits try to win out over the fresh and pure ingredients the Holy Spirit has endowed me with despite my unworthiness. When in quiet prayer on a particularly chaotic day, I might bring a pint of zeal to be with God, with a pinch of complaining, a teaspoon of negotiating and wrestling with His Divine Will, and a teaspoon of honey in my desire to love God and my neighbor, despite my brokenness.
On those days, I have to ask Our Lord to help me sort through all of these competing ingredients in order that the complaining and negotiating can be subsumed into my desire to be there and create a prayer time of true loving presence between He and I. This is the beauty of Our Lord, our great maestro, our creative chef if you will. He knows how to bring my sour and old, moldy attitudes into His Most Sacred Heart where His Blood and Water wash away my selfishness, and he burns away the dross and mold found within me . He then mixes the fresh and ripe kernels found in my heart into His Divine Perfection and with the Spirit teaches me how to pray in purity of spirit.
In the Parable of the Yeast, Jesus tells us that 'The Kingdom is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour it permeated every part of the dough.' (M 13:33) We are asked to bring that yeast before Our Lord that He can transform it into something beautiful for Himself and for the world. In this parable, as well as that of the mustard seed, He even reassures us that it just takes a tiny bit on our part of faith, hope, and love, and that then He will do the rest. This translates into the necessity of showing up for prayer, regardless of our heart's disposition and assortment of moods on any particular day. It further assures us that God always makes something beautiful out of the ingredients that we bring to Him in our hearts, as long as we place it all before Him and surrender it into His creative hands. He is the One who transforms all things found within each of us, and makes them brand new in unexpected and beautiful ways.