The problem is that our society is greedy, egoist and cruel. We have to be realists, evil does exist, and so do economic interests, and we have to accept that, or at least try to understand it. We are part of Creation and everything we do as individuals, everything we call sin, has consequences on society. What does ‘Food for the Spirit’ mean today? Food is a mirror that reflects our lifestyle. In our Waldensian meals, we use porcelain plates and not plastic ones, and we use carpooling for transport… in other words, as believers we look for little solutions to the big problem.
I always say, we’re part of the problem, but also the solution. And also, that it’s better to be atheists than bad believers! I have come here because if we wish, together, we can build a different Europe. We need to take part together in a shared project for humanity. Clean air, lightness, clean and controlled food, democracy, and authenticity. These are the words we need to say, for ourselves and for the future of our children. Man is body and physicality, faith and science, this is the vision of the Bible. We no longer need to separate science from religion… there’s no need to do that any more! These two realities must converse with positive critical spirit, to make something true, authentic, which doesn’t harm human beings.
To examine this subject more deeply, I’d like to refer to a reflection on nourishment which we recently carried out in our Waldensian community in Milan. The words of Jesus, spoken after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes – “Do not work for food that goes bad, but work for food that endures for eternal life” (John 6, 27) – highlights the duality between material food and spiritual food. We obviously need the former – “Give us this day our daily bread” – but we search for Jesus in order to live, not just to survive. Life, in the true sense of the word, has need of spiritual bread too, in order to nourish our communion with God.
Hunger drove Israel to Egypt, where it became enslaved. And when it escaped slavery, on its journey towards freedom it was nourished, in the desert, by manna. A daily gift which, if hoarded, went rotten: thus avoiding the extremes of some having too much and some none at all. God’s gifts are entrusted to us so that everyone may enjoy them, without transforming them into exclusive personal property which does not have to be accounted for to anyone. Otherwise our mission will end in tragedy. Greed eats away at the kind of respect for limits to which God has invited us since creation.
“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden – God says to Mankind – but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Genesis 2, 17). Food becomes a gift of life in the measure to which we recognize that there is a limit, that not everything is available to us. But things went differently. From the avidity to possess everything, to accept no limits, is born the delirium of omnipotence that destroys life. Food is the measure of our relation with creation and with God. Nourishing oneself is also a spiritual matter on which we should reflect every time, starting from the tension between penury and excess, between egoism and communion. So much of our life is spent at table: a moment not just of satisfying hunger but also of recognition… the recognition and gratitude for the gift of our “daily bread”.
Our fraternity reemerges and is consolidated in the Lord’s Supper of the Eucharist. Eating with The Lord helps us to understand that the material goods entrusted to us are to be used in a perspective of sharing. The future of humanity begins at table: at that table to which God, through Christ, has invited us, all men and all women, without excluding anyone. Christianity proposes as its horizon the image of a laid table to which one more place may always be added. There is nothing more acutely spiritual and material at the same time than the simple act of sitting down at the table while thanking the God who has invited us to his table.