The WORD in Other Words by Fr Alan Meechan SVD (Philippines)
When Bishop Simeon Valerio, SVD was asked by an Iglesia ni Cristo (a member of a local sect forbidding the consumption of pork being dirty) why Catholics eat dinnuguan (blood pudding stew), he replied, “Sapagkat masarap! (It’s delicious!)
A growing relationship with Christ should not be cheapened and reduced to the level of minor considerations such as what we should and should not eat. Paul certainly felt this when he wrote to the Romans, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the holy Spirit…”
Today’s first reading outlines what God has provided for our benefit. Everything that God has given is good for us, but Adam is warned about his freedom to accept or reject God’s gift, his freedom to live or to die. Father S. Joseph Krempa writes: “As with Adam, the key to where we stand with God is inside ourselves.”
We are free to eat or refrain from eating certain foods even though what we eat may be conducive to our good health or otherwise. One fine young volunteer catechist in my former parish was diabetic and found not deny herself chocolate and soft drinks. She had so much to give in her pamayanan (neighbourhood) but she died in great distress at the age of twenty-one. It is true that what went into her from outside was what killed her, but she ultimately made the choice from within herself.
Bishop Valerio died almost fifteen years ago, but even today many people have fond memories of him, his friendliness, his jokes and his storytelling. He was glad to be a missionary and what he gave, what came from within, brought many people closer to God and to each other. Nobody in the Church reproached him for eating dinuguan!