Death by Chocolate
Posted By Brian Pessaro On January 16, 2009 @ 12:02 am In Touched By Grace
Now that another Christmas has come and gone, many of us will step on the bathroom scale to face the consequences of our indulgence. If our waistlines have expanded, it might be appropriate to expand our examination of conscience. Gluttony, the excessive indulgence in food and drink, is a sin we don’t hear much about anymore. Can you recall the last time you mentioned it during confession? For most of us gluttony is a venial sin. However just because we’re not as wedded to the pleasures of the table as  Mr. Creosote from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, doesn’t mean we should consider ourselves immune.
For example, I’m a 5 foot 5 inch, 37 year old, 135 pound male who exercises 3 to 4 days per week. So to a casual observer, I’m hardly a candidate for gluttony. And yet this past Christmas, I had several run-ins with gluttony that led me to ponder what it was that I was seeking in food. On one of those occasions, my wife and I had just returned home from a dinner banquet. She pulled out a box of chocolates from the refrigerator and told me to toss them in the trash. She said we had too many sweets in the house. I was mortified. I couldn’t bear the thought of parting with such wonderful treats. As soon as she left the room, I shoved four pieces into my mouth.
The very next night we attended our parish Christmas concert. When our 4-year old son started squirming, my wife nudged me to take him to the nursery. As I walked through the courtyard what to my wondrous eyes did appear but trays upon trays of chocolate spread out for the intermission crowd, who were still inside the church. My heart was aflutter. I felt like  Daffy Duck stumbling upon treasure in Ali Babba’s cave. It’s mine, mine, all mine! I snatched two pieces as I walked with my son to the nursery, and no, I didn’t share. On my way back, I looked around furtively to make sure no one was outside and woofed down four more. I would have kept eating had I not heard someone coming. Here’s the ironic thing about both of these incidents. In neither one was I hungry.
In his Confessions, St. Augustine wrote that even when we sin we are seeking some good, albeit in an illicit way. All of God’s creation is good, but it’s a lesser good. Lesser goods, like chocolate, become occasions of sin when we choose them over the greatest good (God’s truth, God’s law, and God himself). When we desert God, writes St. Augustine, we end up creating a copy of Him in a perverse way. The Jews had their golden calf. I had my chocolate Santa. But what was the good I was seeking?
I’ve been stressed lately. It frightens me that I don’t know what bad news the economy will bring. I’m trying to be my family’s sole provider on a salary that doesn’t go as far as it used to. I’m worried about being laid off. If that weren’t enough stress, my wife and I are expecting our third child. As I reflected on my episodes of gluttony, I realized they were preceded by a fear that if I denied myself the chocolate I would be missing out on life. I may not know what the future holds, but I knew I held that chocolate in my hand. It was mine, and no one was going to deny me the pleasure of eating it. I had chosen the lesser good of solace over the greater good of trust in God’s providence. I had traded the Holy Comforter for comfort food.
In 2009 many Americans will make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Be different and take your resolution to a supernatural level. During your next examination of conscience, include a few questions in regards to gluttony such as: How much time do you spend thinking about, preparing, and eating food versus the amount of time you spend in prayer or with your family? Do you get sad or irritable at the thought of being denied a certain food or having a smaller portion than you wanted? Do you eat to live, or do you live to eat? If the answers to any of these questions tweak your conscience, don’t despair. Ask God to reveal to you in what way you are using food to fill the hunger that only He can satisfy. Ask Him to help you cultivate the virtue of self-control so that instead of food being an idol, it becomes a means of approaching closer to Him and giving glory to His creation.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Death by Chocolate
Yes, I have been absent lately - here but not on my other blog. It is my focus right now - getting healthy, physically, mentally and spiritually. I've joined a google group of (I think primarily) women who are determined to get food out of the focus of their lives. One of the gals shared this article. I pass it on to you. It speaks to me - the issue of gluttony and idolatry which the Spirit has brought to the surface and said, "Enough, deal with it - get whole, lean on Me and not that chocolate bar. My food lasts forever!"