But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile. -Mark 7:20-23
Several years ago, at a meeting of the Passionists in Detroit, we listened to a couple of Yale professors tell us about our own Thomas Berry’s, “Dream of the Earth”. This presentation gave rise to many different thoughts and feelings. I personally was already familiar with Thomas’ ideas and inspired by the presentation. A classmate from the high school seminary we attended, was quite concerned, and raised the question: “…but how are we going to feed the world’s population?” I had never concerned myself with this question before Bill raised it and frankly, I thought it was a ridiculous question and far beyond our responsibility or even capability to answer. Food, for as long as I’ve lived, was always just there. I don’t remember my response to Bill that day, but I hope and pray it contained none of the evils Mark mentions in today’s scripture selection quoted above.
Since that meeting and Bill’s question, I have spent much of my time trying to understand the role of food in my life, in the life of my immediate community and ultimately in the life of all God’s world. I’ve taken to grinding my own wheat which I get from a nearby family farm that nurtures not only relationships to me, their customer, but also to the earth from which the gifts they receive, and share come. I met them at the local Farmers’ Market several years ago, and I’ve gotten to know and respect them for their ethical way of handling food from our Mother Earth. They handwrite a “Thank you for your order!” on the receipts of orders that are shipped to me, and they patiently put up with my fumbling and ignorance when I call or meet them at the market.
This relationship has brought me to this time when I share my homemade whole-wheat bread not only with the birds but also with friends who come on Saturday evenings to break bread and eat some soup around my hearth. Yes, our conversations sometimes get heated, but for the most part, we all share lovingly and compassionately our lives’ journeys and our thoughts on what it’s all about.
God, guide me in your way of love and service. Thank You for the people who challenge my narrow views. Keep me from spewing anything but love and compassion. Thank You for the many gifts of the earth You have given me. Help me lovingly share them each day, one day at a time.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.