Published June 7, 2007
I walk nervously into the kitchen and stare at the package of chicken. I am not much of a cook, but in a moment of sympathy, I signed up to prepare a meal for my neighbor, who has just been diagnosed with a heart ailment.
My husband usually does the cooking in our household, while I do the baking, but today he is busy, so I’m on a solo flight with this particular bird.
I study recipes in various cookbooks and say a few prayers, then I wrestle the chicken out of the package and into a marinade. When the chicken is finally baking, I find myself at a total loss about the side dishes.
Truly, I had planned to make the entire meal from scratch, but as the hours slip away, and I am still perusing cookbooks, I make a hasty decision: Head over to Rainbow Grocery and pick up some squash casserole and a few other tempting vegetable dishes.
Back at home, I test the chicken for doneness and am starting to feel quite weary. And then I realize that what I am doing is a daily event for women with children.
Each day, these saintly souls plan a main dish, the sides and a dessert. They set the table and somehow manage to get everyone fed by a certain appointed hour.
Since I have no children, I obviously have more time on my hands than mothers do, but time vanishes when I sit down to the computer each afternoon to write. Some evenings, supper is just a grilled cheese sandwich, with larger, fancier meals prepared by my husband on weekend nights.
In the past, I have prayed for my neighbor and her family, especially in the last few weeks of her most recent pregnancy, when doctors required complete bed rest for her.
But when the meal sign-up sheet came around, I was reluctant to add my name. I assured myself that prayers were enough because I didn’t want to subject the family to my pathetic attempts at domesticity.
Then one Sunday at Mass, I heard the words of St. James, who mentioned how feeble faith without works can be:
“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” (2:15-16).
It was time to add my name to the latest sign-up sheet for meals.
And now, as I survey the chicken, which appears miraculously crispy, I am glad I took that leap of faith. Soon, I am wrapping the chicken in layers of foil, tucking in the side dishes and heading over to my neighbor’s house.
I ring the doorbell and out come two of the children, still wearing their school uniforms, along with Olive the basset hound, who greets me with a shout of canine delight.
My neighbor hugs me and thanks me profusely, and then, moments later, as I drive away, I picture the family sitting down to eat the food that came from my own hands.
I whisper a prayer that the meal will be tasty, and they won’t have to feed the entire banquet to Olive.
That was months ago. My neighbor is doing fine and the latest addition to her family, the cherubic Lucy, is scooting around with great enthusiasm.
And now, with the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ approaching on June 10, I am reflecting on Christ leaving His children the Eucharist, which is such a tangible sign of His love.
Jesus came to show us the human face of divinity and to reveal the real-life components of love. That included feeding the crowds loaves and fishes, healing the blind and the deaf, and before His own death, giving us food for our immortal souls.
He had left us His words in Scripture, but maybe because we experience love in visible ways, He also went on to leave us real spiritual sustenance, His body and His blood.
Cooking for my neighbor was such a small thing, but in tiny moments like these, sometimes we glimpse the larger miracle of Christ’s love for us.
He was the one who told Peter after the Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.” He was the one who cooked fish for the apostles on the shore.
These days, as I remember my neighbor and her family in my prayers, I sometimes think ahead to the next meal I might cook for someone in need.
And I’m starting to realize that, by some mysterious logic, as we feed our brothers and sisters, Christ is feeding us.
Lorraine V. Murray is the author of three books on spirituality, available at www.lorrainevmurray.com. Illustration featured in the print edition is by her husband, Jef, who is the artist-in-residence for The St. Austin Review. Readers may e-mail Lorraine at firstname.lastname@example.org.