I had a very nice weekend away in Seabright, New Jersey. The kitchen at the villa house is magnificent and I had a chance to cook dinner on Saturday evening for five other Jesuits. I marinated some steaks and prepared a bleu cheese butter to accompany them, I prepared a fried polenta (think french fries made of cornmeal), mushrooms stuffed with spinach, garlic, and parmesan cheese, and brownies and ice cream for dessert.
The more I cook, especially for larger groups, the more I realize how much the act of cooking is a crucial dimension of my spirituality. As I prepare the food, I consider those for whom I am cooking: what will they like to eat? Knowing what I do of each of them, are there things I can do/make that will enhance their dining experience? I craft the meal to meet their needs and desires wanting for them to have the best possible experience of our table fellowship.
But the meal itself begins long before we sit at the table. As people wander in through the kitchen, I'm the first to ask a person to "taste this" or "tell me what you think." If I'm mixing a batter, I reserve the bowl and batter; when baking, I hold broken cookies for "free samples."
I guess it's just that from the moment of invitation to the moment of washing the dishes, my focus isn't just on "me" and my wants but, rather, on the desires of others. I feel most alive spiritually when I am doing something for others, using my (admittedly limited) skills in the kitchen to delight someone else.
It's not easy for me to say "I love you" or "I care." But I can demonstrate it. Informing this demonstration is the hospitality of God I have come to know through prayer, a welcome offered by Christ that I can translate into a welcome offered to my neighbor. I don't do this perfectly, but I try.
I don't know why I want to post this...except as an encouragement for others to make really present their encounters with God. I reckon it's pretty selfish if we just save up all of our intimate experiences with God as though they were meant for us alone. As we have been given, so are we empowered to give. So as I imagine God's Kingdom to be an endless banquet of feasting and drinking, a banquet to which I and countless others have been invited into by Christ, so can I help others participate in my image of God's desire for the us through my own hospitality.