Food is so necessary for our survival. But it is not only for our physical survival; it is also important for our psychological and spiritual survival. That is why almost all our celebrations, get-togethers, family gatherings are all centered around food. When we eat the food another person cooks from his or her heart, it is a mutual exchange of love: the person who gives you food is telling you “I love you” and by eating the food, you are also returning the love saying, “I love you too.” In both cases, there is mutual acceptance. Love always reaches out her hands to be accepted gently by another in trust and gratitude. Offering food is a highly symbolic way of offering love to another person.
This is particularly important when we travel to a different country or experience another culture that is not ours. Our attitude to their food says much more than we can say with words. There is no better way to accept a people or a culture or a person or group than through eating their food. All cultures welcome visitors with food, and it is their own food. If we are adventurous and remember in our hearts that people offer us what they have, we can eat their food with love and delight. It is much more important than telling them in a million words we love them. Refusal to eat a people’s food can literally signify rejection or shaming! The truth is that you may not like everything, but there has to be something that you will like. At the least, you can taste the food. To completely reject tasting or eating their food is to reject their offer of love; it is to say that their love isn’t that important to you. How often we fall into this situation without intending to! We also can justify the attitude with as many excuses as we can come up with: the food is not clean enough; it is not well cooked; I wonder how the kitchen looks; I suspect the vegetables aren’t washed well; my doctor tells me to be careful; I am scared I will catch a disease; it has a particular odor; and on and on! If we have love in our hearts, we can always step out of our comfort zone and accept the love offered us from a person’s heart. This solidarity of love is always symbolized and sealed with offers of food.
This is precisely what Jesus Christ did by getting in line with other sinners to be baptized. He didn’t scorn them because He had no sin; He didn’t put them to shame. No, He joined the line, identifying Himself completely with them. It is a gesture of complete acceptance of our humanity, our foibles, our sinfulness, our failures. In accepting our humanity, He also knows there is something good in us: we each carry the light of God, the glory of God, the divine image in us, irrespective of our failures and the mess in our lives. The baptism of Jesus is therefore consistent with God’s constant offer of love and acceptance to His children. God rejects no one, no matter what they do, hoping that through His unflinching love, He can win us all to His merciful heart.
Think of how people try to show you love in the little things they do or in the way they act. No act of love is little; it has power to heal any kind of shame in our lives. You do not look down on people because you feel they are poor, unkempt, uneducated, or simply not like you or not up to your standard! God constantly offers us opportunities to be baptized into the lives of others so that we can also raise them up through our love and acceptance. May God grant you the grace to always be disposed to receive and give love from whomever God sends it. Amen