SUNDAY HINTS FOR THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
Nutrition and the Spiritual Life
“May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14). Our spiritual life is our spirituality exemplified and spirituality though without a universal definition and meaning simply points to our yearning to connect everything we do through God, with God, in God and for God. One area that is a road less travelled by spiritual pilgrims is our thin mindfulness in the area of nutrition as it influences our spiritual life. To begin with, nutrition whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not has become a chief determining factor about our health, diagnoses of diseases, their prevention and control, physical and spiritual growth and a whole range of other dimensions of our human existence, life and happiness.
Today, we hear and experience a lot like anxiety, anger burst, wicked attitudinal display in the forms of terrorism and ritual killings, fears/phobias, depression, emotional distresses, cancerous multiplication and chemical imbalances in the brains as the consequences of nutritional deficiencies or poor nutritional lifestyles. Hence, the Israelites cried out: “The rabble who had joined the people were feeling the pangs of hunger, and the Israelites began to weep again. ‘Who will give us meat to eat?’ they said. ‘Think of the fish we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic!’” (Num. 11:4-5). Is it a truism that what we eat has impact on us and how we relate with God and our general output including our spiritual life? Science is very clear about what we eat and drink. They inform our appearances, comfort, energy levels and overall health.
Thus, St. Paul says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). As far as nutrition is concern, it is a basic characteristic and need for our human growth and sustainability. There are two types: physical nutrition and spiritual nutrition. Physical nutrition has to do with our physical and natural food intake. The question is: are we on the right track? Observations and researches reveal that “we eat too much, we choose the wrong foods, and we do not get enough exercise.” More so, we eat and drink a lot of junks instead of natural or real food. Experts assert that “The brain cannot function properly on junk food and junk drinks, any more than a finely-built Mazarati or Porsche can function properly on the wrong fuel.” The effects are huge! Such as obesity, cravings that lead to addictions, heart attack, stroke, and long term symptoms of “chemical imbalances.” And when we are privileged to be cautioned by our family members, friends and experts like Doctors, Priests, therapists and other healthcare providers we argue: “I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. “I have the right to do anything”–but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Cor. 10:23, 6:12b1). Once our physical health is affected, invariably our spiritual health and life would follow suit. Note, it is only the living that can praise the Lord (Ps. 115:17; Is. 38:19).
How about our spiritual nutrition – Holy Communion, are we on the right track? Again, nutrition is connected to our spiritual life. Hence Jesus teaches: “In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person” (John 6:53-56).
Many of us today cannot distinguish between the Catholic Eucharist and the love feast. This is worrisome! So, listen to St. Paul the Master of the spiritual life: “Whenever you eat this bread, then, and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily is answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone is to examine himself and only then eat of the bread or drink from the cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognising the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation. That is why many of you are weak and ill and a good number have died” (1Cor. 11: 26-30). The message is that we can live well if we nourish ourselves well physically and spiritually. It is possible! Eat to live and do not eat to die. Eat well and live well in order to praise the Lord. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Eat real food, that is, eat natural food and not junks.
“Good eating is not a punishment, but an opportunity.”
“Learn to think about food in a new way. Years ago, meat and potatoes were the only… ideal. Now we know that vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and fish are best.”
Eat and drink as forms of feasting and fueling and not only fueling.
Here are the eleven most nutrient dense food on the planet: salmon, kale, seaweed, garlic, shellfish, potatoes, liver, sardines, blueberries, egg yolks, dark chocolate (cocoa).
A famous Hippocratic quote states: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
IF YOU HAVE TO RECEIVE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IN THE HOLY EUCHARIST, DO SO WITH UTMOST LOVE AND REVERENCE (1Cor. 11:26-30).
Fr. John-Mary Atep.