The Holy Eucharist and the Filipino Family
There are many distinctly Filipino actuations and behavior that show how important food is to them. These are passed on from generation to generation and mostly endure up to now. We saw this from our parents (and grandparents!) in their constant reminders about food. There are three very common aspects that can be highlighted as pervasive:
First is the often asked, “Have you eaten?”
Second is, “What do you want to eat?”
Third is, “Always give respect at the food on the table.”
First, “Have you eaten?” This is the first question often asked of visitors to our homes or to our gatherings? It is an affirmation of life. Food is life. We eat to live, to be sustained. Parents work so they can put food on the table. We store food so we may always have something ready to eat.
When parents ask their children, “have you eaten?” they do so out of love, and with love. It is a sign of their concern for the welfare of their children. It manifests their regard for them and their readiness to nourish them.
Often, the first thing that a mother does upon waking up is to prepare breakfast for her family? When guests are coming over, the first thought of the hosts is what food they will serve.
Jesus Himself is the one who invites us to eat. He is also the one who gives us the food. He makes Himself known when He says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn. 6:35).
Jesus also asks us, “Have you eaten?” It is His greeting to us at the Eucharistic Celebration where He invites us to eat.
At the Holy Mass the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We receive Him in Holy Communion. But it is not only His body and blood in the bread and wine that He gives us. Jesus gives us life; He gives us communion with Him. He is with us. We become like Him. We are of Him and with Him as we become what we eat.
Jesus Christ offered Himself in the form of bread and wine to become food for our souls; for us to attain everlasting life. Just as He said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51).
Sunday, our day of worship, is a call to us, Have you gone to Mass? When the bells toll inviting everyone to go to Mass, it is like Jesus greeting us with a familiar Filipino question, “have you eaten?”, “have your received Holy Communion?”
Second, “What do you want to eat?” Because of their valuable regard and concern for us, parents and those who care for us, ask, “What do you like to eat?” or “Where do you want to eat?” When marking important milestones and events in our life, there will surely be food. Special dishes or the favorite food are usually served during special occasions in a person’s life? Don’t we look for the restaurants that offer the best food when we truly want to celebrate and highlight the importance of a date, or a person’s success or achievement?
Food is best when shared. Eating is more fun and enjoyable when we are with loved ones and friends. We offer food, laying it out for others. We invite others to partake of our food. We are proud of the food we, or those who are close to us, prepare. We boast to our friends, “Our mother is a good cook!” Or we share with excitement a new dining place that we have discovered.
My dear brothers and sisters, it is filling to eat at the Eucharistic Celebration because we feast on food, not for our body, but for our souls; food that will bring us to everlasting life. During the Holy Mass we can receive the real food that gives eternal life.
There is something wrong when we say, I will just pray where I am or anywhere; I don’t have to go to Mass. We also cannot rationalize that since we are not doing anything wrong, we do not have to go to Mass.
When you love and value somebody you treat him or her in a special way like taking them out to dine in good restaurants, or give them a blow-out. After working, meeting, or travelling there is always food at the end. It is the same with our days. We go through Monday to Saturday and when Sunday comes we go to Holy Mass. At the close of a busy weekday, after all the daily events of work, study and chores, it is but fitting that we celebrate in the Holy Mass and partake of the food of life, Holy Communion. Amen?
My dear brothers and sisters let us bring our loved ones with us in attending the Holy Mass. When Sunday comes, our day of worship and thanksgiving, let us invite them, “come, let us go to Mass, let us receive Holy Communion, together and be filled with God’s grace and blessings.”
Third, let us give due respect and proper regard for food. Food should not be wasted; it should not be laid to rot and thrown away. Before a meal, with family or friends, the proper attitude is one of gratitude and joy. There should be no raised voices; no quarrelling, no raucous behavior, no unpleasant topics, debates or arguments. Most of all we pray before and after we partake of the food.
Parents always remind their little children, “Please wash your hands. Sit up straight. No elbows on the table. Be sure your clothes, hair and face are clean.”
It is more so when we partake of the bread of life. When we go to mass we should make sure that we are clean, from head to toe. Our clothes must be decent and simple, not inviting unwanted stares, not causing people to be scandalized. We must be worthy to receive Jesus through Holy Communion by being clean and pure not only on the outside but more importantly, inside, by going to confession.
Show respect for our food, our parents and elders would say, because it sustains life. Let us show fitting respect to our encounter with Jesus, “the living bread that came down from heaven” (Jn 6: 58). Be neat and proper in your person and attire, when going to mass; be clean inside when receiving Holy Communion. Don’t chew gum; don’t text. Focus your entire attention on the Holy Mass and allow the grace of the sacrament to fill your entire being.
Food is important. Many observe that Filipinos love to eat. Many traditions of love and togetherness are played out around the dining table. Our elders prepare and serve food with love and attention. They go to great lengths to cook the best dishes, to feed their families healthy and delicious meals. They work hard so they can always put food on the table for their families. And all that they ask is that food be respected, be properly enjoyed and generously shared.
We go to the Mass with the same disposition. We go to the table of plenty, the table of the Lord. And He Himself is the food, so that when we eat this food we will live forever. Let us approach His table with thanksgiving, with openness to God’s saving grace, with mercy for our brothers and sisters.
Jesus Christ offers Himself in the Holy Eucharist. He suffered and died to give Himself to us as food. At the Eucharistic celebration, we bow in deep worship, as the priest intones, the very words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
The Holy Mass is a Filipino tradition. It portrays our culture of respect of and value for food. “Have you eaten? What do you want to eat? Please respect food.” Jesus asks us the same thing.
Have you gone to Mass?
Have you received Holy Communion?
Please show respect for the Holy Mass.
+Ruperto Cruz Santos, DD
Bishop of Balanga