As I pulled into the parking lot of this restaurant, I found myself a bit out of place. The cars in the lot did not look like my finely crafted black Honda Civic coupe. Nonetheless, I pulled into an open space next to a fully detailed luxury car. I straightened up my flat brim fitted hat, adjusted my shirt to make sure I didn’t look sloppy, jeans pressed, sneakers looking good, and not creased. I entered the restaurant excited to have a good meal with friends.  Music played slightly in this dimly lit restaurant, while “Four Seasons” from Antonio Vivaldi played loud enough for conversations to be muffled but not overpowered. I sat with my friends, we looked at the menu, and I realized at that moment, “This is not your typical restaurant.” This is a fine dining, Michelin Star worthy establishment, and I have the appetite of a man who is ready to consume something from fast food places’ secret menu. Regretfully, I was not as confident ordering as I was walking into this place, so I recruited some help from the waiter. Most of the things I could not pronounce, and some of the ingredients were unnoticeable to me. I placed my order and waited. Once it arrived, I wanted to devour the food, but something instinctively told me, “no.” I took my first bite, and instantly knew, “This was something special.”  This food, I needed to experience and not consume hastily. The next bite made me feel as if I was in a different place. The following bite made me feel as if for a moment in time I had stepped into Heaven. It was the slowest meal I ever had, and to this day, I can talk about it and feel as if I was there. This triggered my Spiritual curiosity. Do I take in the Word of God as I took in that meal?

Chef Thomas Keller says, ”A recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe.” Thomas Keller is a American-born chef who holds multiple three-star ratings from the Michelin Guide and chosen to be the first American to be a Chevalier of The French Legion of Honor. Chef Keller is simply saying that a simple ingredient is given life and elevated by the hands of a creator.  A chef is an artist, like other artists, that uses the plate as their canvas. They imitate either knowingly, or unknowingly, our Creator; God the Father. God Who spoke the simple words: “Let there be light, and there was light” (Gen 1:3) set into motion all of Creation in just one phrase. God took mere human words and elevated them by giving it life. Human words can not truly convey the greatness of God, nor His power, yet have been elevated to life altering power. To further the power of words the Word of God, “became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory, His glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). If God the Incarnate Word has poured Himself out to reach us, then why do we minimize the Word as if we are consuming it like a frozen burger patty picked up at a drive-thru window during rush hour?

When we get a taste of the mercy, forgiveness, and power of Jesus Christ via an encounter or relationship, we can no longer be content with consuming the Word as we did in the past, such as reading words from a book. But then, the words have to take on an elevated form in our lives, even if we do not fully understand the depths of it.  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways — Oracle of the LORD. For as the Heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways” Is 55:8-9.

These words came to Isaiah as an invitation of grace to all who hear them. We may understand words in their simplest forms and academic structure of lexicon, phonics, and grammatical structure, but deep in the Creator’s work, there is a flavorful complexity that we must take the time to sit and digest in order to appreciate God’s savory  intention. Once we dive into what God is saying to us via His Word, it should motivate us into action and propel us into proclamation of the Good News, because the Holy Spirit Who breathed life into those words, is that same breath breathed into us. 

The Sunday Liturgy (Mass), models for us how we should approach Sacred Scripture via the Prayer of the Church, in the Liturgy of the Word. First, we start in prayer, collecting the people together to prepare. Consider this bite-size introduction, the Amuse-bouche, preparing our Spiritual palate. A first reading from the Old testament is like an appetizer that prefigures the meal about to be received. The Psalms, which the “Catechism” says: “both nourished and expressed the prayer of the People of God (CCC#2586), is like a warm cup of soup or bisque that warms our inner selves and prepares the palate for the meal that is to come. The second reading, which is like a perfectly crafted salad, introduces some of the ingredients that will be on display during the main course. Finally, the main course of the Proclamation of the Gospel, fulfills the consumption of the previous Word. This leads you to the reception of our soul’s dessert, our faiths all sweetness and hope: the Eucharist. 

As the waiter helped me in my first fine dining experience, it is my hope that I have helped you to navigate the menu which is the Word of God. Today the Creator has a four-course meal designed to elevate your palate and call you to action. Enjoy, consume slowly, and tell the world what you have experienced with Ecriture Sainte. Bon appétit!

Anchor columnist Oscar Rivera Jr., is director of Youth Ministry in the diocesan Secretariat for the New Evangelization.