Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
You don’t have to thumb through the pages of Sacred Scripture for too long before you find parallels being drawn between communion with God and the sharing of a communal meal. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Jesus himself refers to the Kingdom of God as being like a marriage feast thrown in honor of a King’s son to which “many are called but few are chosen”. The same parable is found the Gospel of Saint Luke where Christ’s analogy is to a banquet rather than, specifically, a wedding feast. This theme is repeated again and again right through to the final book of the Bible, Revelations, where Saint John encounters an angel who instructs him to write of the heavenly banquet: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Hence, as we continue our theme of Thanksgiving as Disciples Together on the Way we will explore the importance of mealtime for growing in gratitude for God and all he has given us.
Since the earliest days of mankind, a shared meal has been the heart of our human communities. It's the place where we grow in intimacy with our kin and share our hopes, our good days, our bad days, our laughter and our love. It's where we express our thankfulness for our food, one another and the gifts that God has given us.
In the Gospels, we witness many occasions where Jesus shared a meal. Some meals were shared with public sinners such as tax collectors, those who are “sick” and need a physician, a divine physician. Some meals were shared with the multitudes such as the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 respectively. Some were shared intimately with His disciples or with his dear friends in Bethany: Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
We also see Jesus offering a Blessing before many of these meals. In the Jewish tradition, the Blessing corresponds to the type of food or the importance of the meal. But regardless of which type of Blessing, we can understand that it was a prayer ordered to give Praise and Thanks to God.
Ultimately, in these Biblical events, we see a foreshadowing of Jesus's perfect sacrifice in which He will give us Himself in the Holy Eucharist - a meal, that we share together, whereupon we receive our Lord Jesus Christ, and give praise and thanks to God in worship.
And so to this week’s challenge. Here it is: Around the breakfast or dinner table each day this week, have everyone in the household share what you want to thank God for today. Here are one or two practical tips:
For families or roommates: Try dedicating each meal as a "screen free zone". This means no TV, no tablet, and no phones. That means the phone is switched off – not just on silent – and away from the table. Doing that allows us to be fully present to each other and to God. If you have been relying on screens for quite some time, then you may find the first few meals a bit awkward. That's OK. Keep at it.
As for those of us who live alone: This can be a challenging week. Not having the opportunity to share a meal with someone in your home can stir up difficult emotions and pain. It may be the fact that your children are grown and gone, or perhaps you are widowed, or have never known the joy of marriage. Hence, this could be an opportunity for you to seek healing. Ask Jesus to heal you of whatever it is that hurts as he is always present to you at your table.
In addition: This week can also give us a wonderful reason to reach out to friends and family and invite them over for a meal. So, until next week buon appetito!
And may God bless you and your family, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing