Posted July 24, 2015
Growing up I can remember Monday dinners were always leftover nights. While my father seemed to relish the smorgasbord of home-cooked meals from the week before, I know that the grimace on my face was not met with pleasure by my mother. Like most young people, our taste for food needs to develop. I didn’t realize it then but witnessed it with my own children. So on Monday nights I would try to find something that I liked hoping that the adults didn't choose it first. Leftovers. Some people like them, most don’t. When I was old enough to voice a complaint to my mother (by the way, one is never old enough to do that) she would simply say, “Jesus made leftovers.” Arrrrgh! How was I to refute that?!
In our readings today we do indeed hear about Jesus and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. After everyone had eaten their fill, he gave the command, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” In the first reading from the Second Book of Kings, the Lord, through the prophet Elisha also multiplied loaves. And the Lord said, “They shall eat and there shall be some left over.” Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers! There it is in both testaments of the Bible!
So we shouldn’t complain when we are able to eat leftovers. If the first foods were gifts from God, then so too are the leftovers. Still, in this country—and in the world—nearly one third of all food is wasted. In Pope Francis’s latest encyclical, he draws upon this fact and says that “wasting food is no different than taking it off the table of the poor and throwing it away.” How many of us over-buy at the market or bulk stores? Could garbage night at our houses also be called “clean out the fridge night?” When we ask for a box at a restaurant do we ever really eat the leftovers?
It’s really hard to change our habits of purchasing and eating out. But we can adopt new habits. Yes, restaurants and grocery stores deserve to make a profit, and so there is a marketing rationale to how things are packaged or presented to our table. We could always ask for smaller, or lunch portions, but those aren’t always offered.
So here is a simple suggestion to help us share our leftovers. When we purchase food, we can be conscious that there are many in the world—and in this city—who are hungry. When we buy in bulk (a good economic idea) we can think of how we can use some of what we buy for others before is spoils. Few of us are going to make extra meals and drop them off at a neighbor’s home just to feel good about not wasting. However, we can pull together and make meals for Tender Mercies which already depends on meals from St. Xavier. Tender Mercies (a home located 2 blocks east of Music Hall) is constantly in need of prepared meals to feed the hungry of our city. We can still purchase what and how we like, we can prepare the meals of our own choosing, and we can do it knowing that the extra will be served to those in need.
Let’s not waste our excess food but celebrate it, as did Our Lord. Our “leftovers” can easily become the life-giving food for our poverty-stricken brothers and sisters. What a fantastic way to share in living the Eucharist in our daily lives. Don't let good food become gray and fuzzy in the fridge. Make an intended plan to share a meal with Tender Mercies. Simply call the parish office for details of where and when to drop off your fixin’s (513-721-4045). Together we can help stamp out hunger—and “Leftover Monday.”
—Deacon Tim Crooker