In theory, it’s great. Having sat down at the dining table, or even on the couch in front of the TV, you spend a few short moments reflecting on the food you are about to eat. You give thanks to the living beings that died to bring the meal your way (vegetables have feelings too), and you sympathize with those who do not have, and maybe never will have, the good fortune of such easy access to food and drink.
I was reminded of this practice just the other night, in Beijing of all places, sitting around the table with the family that I was staying with. It came as a bit of a surprise. The eldest son of the family had cooked dinner and we were all sitting around the table when my father (whose friends the hosts are) was asked to say grace. I mumbled and fumbled my way through the sign of the cross, and as his words passed over me, the real meaning of grace (as outlined above) popped into my mind.
You see, I’d never really thought about saying grace that way before. When I was growing up it was just something we had to do before every meal. My favourite version was “Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub. And the focus was directed at God. This is the version I remember most:
We thank you Lord for the food we are about to receive. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Little wonder I stopped doing it as soon as I could. Little wonder I turned my back on the Church. Why thank God before every meal? Was He the one who made it? Did He die to put it on the table? Is He generally without nutritious food? I don’t think so. Actually, I’m not sure about the last one, maybe they don’t have Coles in Heaven.
Saying grace – it’s a good idea with noble intentions. But it’s ruined when you chuck God into the equation, puts the focus on the wrong place. Much like religion in general.