Jesus’ ministry and mission is about food and not just spiritual food but also food for the belly, because I think Jesus understood the importance of both. The food that nourishes the body and the food that nourishes the soul. You cannot separate one over the other. You cannot also emphasize one over the other. In this ministry and mission, Jesus welcomed and fed all; Jesus was welcomed and was fed as well.
In the story of the feeding of the multitude present in all four gospels, thousands of people were hungry after he taught them. They were all hungry because it was already late in the day and the closest disciples of Jesus knew this. They said to Jesus, “send them away now for it is getting late, so that they may find food somewhere else.” It is short of saying, “Hindi na natin problema ang kagutuman nila. Paalisan mo na sila, para humanap sila ng paraan para makakaen”. Sabi ni Hesus, “Kayo ang magpakaen sa kanila.” Sabi ng mga apostoles nya, “Saan kami kukuha ng pera para pakainin ang libo libong mga taong eto?” But Jesus knew that inasmuch as he provided for them with the nourishment of the spirit by teaching them many things, he was also responsible for the nourishment of their bodies. They went to him to be filled and Jesus understood that this included the filling of their empty stomachs. Many of those who listened to Jesus were most likely peasants like him who barely ate that day. Many of them decided to not find a day-work, just to listen to Jesus even though they were no-work-no-pay persons. Jesus knew that the good news for the poor included food in their bellies.
Jesus fed them. In the version of the gospel of John, a boy shared two pieces of fish and five barley loaves of bread that fed thousands. Both Jesus and the boy did not stop to inquire whether those they will feed had contributed to his ministry similar to tax payers. He did not give them food according to the amount of their contribution or whether they contributed at all. They were hungry and Jesus fed them, and in the version of John’s gospel, it is because of the generosity of a child. Everyone ate food that they did not pay for nor were deserving of. Everyone ate with glad and thankful hearts. All five thousand of them and more.
Throughout Jesus travelling ministry, he ate with various kinds of people. He ate with some of the prominent Pharisees whom he criticized for being rigid and legalistic. He also ate with the people the Pharisees did not approve of: Tax collectors, prostituted and discarded women and all other kinds of what were considered as sinners. Jesus welcomed and fed people and people welcomed and fed Jesus. Yes. Mahilig kumain si Jesus. Wala syang pakielam sino ka, taga saan ka at ano ang ambag mo. Kanyang paanyayaa, “Tara, Kain tayo.” They shared both food and stories, spirit and bread even when most of those in authority did not approve. He did not ask about their qualification or their contribution. He welcomed everyone and he entered and ate with anyone who welcomed him.
The early Christian communities practiced this radical inclusion of the open table. We read in Acts chapter 2 and Chapter 4 how the first Christian communities had everything in common. They would sell their properties and pool it together and give according to each person’s or family’s need. Lahat nag-ambag upang lahat makakaen ng hindi nagtatanong kung meron ba o magkano ba ang naimbag ng babahaginan. Maliit man o malaki o maski walang naimbag, naniwala sila na bawat isa ay nararapat na bahaginan at makakaen ayun sa kanilang pangangailangan. Eto ang tinuro at isinabuhay ng Kristong kanilang sinusundan.
Celebrating the Passover meal, Jesus instituted what would later be the central Christian practice for the last 2000+ years, the Eucharist or Communion. He gave the bread as if giving his own body and he gave the wine as if giving his own life. He was gathered with peasant fisher folks and women. He gave his body to eat and his blood to drink not asking how much they contributed or how loyal they were to him. Indeed many of them betrayed and disowned him a few hours after.
If you are hungry or thirsty, come.
This is my body, eat.
This is my blood, drink.
You don’t need to be a tax payer or a tither.
You don’t need to be pure and holy.
Eat and remember his commandment to serve.
Drink and remember his commandment to love.
Come as you are.
Eat. Drink. Remember.
Doing so, there is hope that you will also do as Jesus did.
Painting by Joey Velasco.