Eating a slice of cake is not the issue, since Jesus Himself appreciated good food and company, but rather taking for granted or distorting “God’s daily bread,” which can slowly but surely destroy the planet. Pope Francis offered this perspective during his weekly General Audience held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. Continuing his catechesis series on virtues and vices, the Pope focused this week on the sin of gluttony.
Jesus enjoyed good meals with others
The Holy Father pointed out that, from the Christian point of view, food is not “bad”. Rather, what risks being a problem is our relationship with food. The Pope recalled how the Lord rejected the Hebrew law’s ritual distinction between pure and impure food. Jesus, he insisted, showed us with His own actions that there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good meal or some wine, as evidenced in Scripture when He is questioned by the Pharisees about His disciples not fasting while having dinner at Levi’s house with tax collectors and sinners (Mk 2:18-20). He wants us to be joyful with Him at the table, but also to be prepared to balance that with abstaining and fasting at times of suffering, for example, as Christians do during Lent.
The Pope emphasised that what matters is the distortion of our relationship with food and how it changes us and our hearts. “What does the Gospel tell us about this? Let us look to Jesus,” said the Pope. “His first miracle, at the wedding feast of Cana, reveals His sympathy with human joys: He cares that the feast ends well and gives the bride and groom a lot of very good wine.” Jesus, recalled the Pope, is often seen at the table eating, as opposed to John the Baptist, who is remembered for his asceticism. As a guest at the wedding feast of Cana, Jesus taught the goodness of food and drink, and the joy of table fellowship. Pope Francis therefore urged the faithful to always be grateful for God’s gift of our daily bread and “mindful of our responsibility towards others and virtuous in our enjoyment of the good things of this earth.”
Our relationship with food must be balanced
The Pope drew attention to society’s tendency to have a more distorted or imbalanced relationship with food. In societies troubled by eating disorders, which all too often waste great amounts of food even as many people in our world go hungry, the Pope suggested that our eating habits should be moderate and socially responsible. He acknowledged that these illnesses, “often very painful,” are “mostly related to the torments of the psyche and soul.” “Food is the manifestation of something inner: the predisposition to balance or immoderation; the ability to give thanks or the arrogant claim to autonomy; the empathy of those who know how to share food with the needy; or the selfishness of those who hoard everything for themselves.”
The issue is not ‘giving in’ before a piece of cake
How one eats, the Pope said, reveals something about their soul. The Holy Father recalled the saying that “we eat to live; we don’t live to eat.” He warned that our consumption behaviours, which may seem personal, can also impact society and the planet as a whole. If we see it from a social point of view, the Pope reasoned, gluttony is “perhaps the most dangerous vice that is killing the planet.” While “the sin of those who ‘give in’ in front of a slice of cake, all things considered, does not cause great harm,” the “voracity with which we have been lashing out, for the past few centuries, at the planet’s goods,” on the other hand, “is compromising everyone’s future,” insisted the Pope.
Implications for the entire world
“We have pounced on everything to become masters of everything, even though everything has been entrusted to our stewardship,” lamented the Pope. “Here, then, is the great sin, the fury of the stomach: we have abjured the name of men to assume another, ‘consumers.'” Pope Francis decried that while “we were made to be “eucharistic” men and women, capable of thanksgiving, discreet in the use of the earth,” we have instead “turned into predators, and now we are realizing that this form of ‘gluttony’ has done much harm.” The Pope concluded by encouraging everyone to ask the Lord to strive to live in sobriety.