Accepting God’s invitation to a feast

Growing up I can vividly recall eating meals together as a family. Each meal was begun with a blessing and thanksgiving to Almighty God for what we were about to receive. Conversation was lively, often boisterous, and even on occasion might result in heated argument. There was never any reluctance or hesitation when it came to finding a seat at the table because there was always so much love and joy that surrounded it. The food that we ate could never be classified as Haute Cuisine but it was nourishing and plentiful; we never left the table hungry, either physically or spiritually.

Wedding Feast

Wedding Feast

Sadly, those days of family meals and conversation have disappeared for the most part, and we are much poorer for it. Face-to-face conversation and the necessary socialization that occurs because of it have vanished from our cultural lexicon, tossed aside with a callous indifference to its value and importance.

These days we communicate with one another remotely and anonymously through the various technological tools at our disposal such as texting, tweeting, Facebook, instant messaging, and email. We are no longer required to actually look one another in the eye or risk potentially damaging emotional or physical contact of any kind. We have enveloped ourselves within a womb of our own making, and lost an essential attribute of that which makes us human and children of God. We have forgotten that we are social creatures; that it is not within our nature to live apart.

From the very beginning God created man to live within a social network for He created us for one another. He knew that it was not good for man to be alone.[1] While God created everything out of nothing, He has created everything within a relationship to all that He has created. Society and all its forms of association are an essential and necessary part of who and what we are as members of the human family and as God’s creation.

A hallmark of the strength and enduring quality of any society can be measured by the importance given to communal gatherings and the breaking of bread with one another. Even a cursory journey through the Bible will give testament to the numerous occasions where people reclined at table to share a meal together.

Jesus mockingly said of himself that “the Son of Man came eating and drinking[2] and it takes no great effort to discover the many instances where he can be found doing just that. We could quite correctly surmise that Jesus enjoyed eating and drinking but never do we find him doing so alone; it is always within the embrace of friends, family, and even strangers or enemies. Perhaps the greatest example that we have is of the Last Supper where on the night before his death, in the presence of his friends and his lone betrayer, he shared a meal – the first Eucharist – accompanied by interesting if not provocative conversation.

The early church did not consist of dedicated buildings constructed solely for the glory and worship of God; rather members of the body of Christ came together at someone’s home, often bringing food and wine to be shared among those who were in attendance. It was a social event that provided everyone with food and conversation. What was generally discussed was of course the message and ministry of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. It was, quite literally, exactly what Jesus intended it to be, an invitation to come together as members of one family to share the very essence of their lives with one another in thanksgiving, in Eucharist.

As Father Ron Rolheiser describes it:

The weekday supper of hotdogs and beans, wolfed-down in 20 minutes with the conversation going no deeper than the sports scores, is not exactly the same stuff as the fare of the Christmas dinner or the conversation that takes place at a wedding or a funeral, but it is equally as important in creating family and keeping a family together. Families are for every day, just as they are for special occasions. So too is the Eucharist.

For a variety of reasons, we have been slow to take this aspect of the Eucharist seriously. Perhaps this is because its other dimensions seem more sacred. Our reluctance to accept this is evident in the simple criticism that is made of people who go to church principally because of its social aspect: “She doesn’t go to church to pray! She just goes for the socializing, for the chance to talk with others!” That is always voiced as a negative when, in fact, it a good reason, among others, to go to the Eucharist. The ritual of the Eucharist was given to us because we are social in our very make-up. To go to church to socialize is reason enough to be there.

One of the reasons we go to church is to pray, but we go there too for the same reason we go to the family table every evening. It’s good to be there, no matter what![3]

But God is not satisfied with the simple sharing of a meal together for He desires that we enjoy a great feast, one that He will provide. He tells us that “the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure choice wines.”[4]  These are not the food or drink that we are encouraged to indulge in and yet God tells us that that is exactly what He will provide. He created us to be fed until we are completely satisfied on the very best, the richest and juiciest of all. God will provide it all in heaven and Jesus feeds us his body and blood in the bread and wine of the Eucharist here on this earth.

We are, by our very nature, social creatures, it is in our DNA. We cannot and should not lose sight of that which God has instilled within each of us. Just as we should recognize the need to return to the family table and reengage in the art of immediate and meaningful conversation, we must also seek ways to return to the Eucharist as Jesus intended. We must recognize that we all are members of the body of Christ and as such are his brothers and sisters, members of his family. We should look forward to sharing a meal and conversation, socializing with everyone we meet each time we come together in Eucharist.

As important as it is to know that we are truly one family and that we are socially designed by God to be dependent upon one another, it is perhaps of even greater importance that we prepare ourselves for the great feast that God has prepared for us. We know neither the day nor the hour when God will invite us to the feast. The invitation most likely will come sooner than we expect so hold close to your wedding garment; stay wrapped in the body of Christ.

[1] Gen 2:18.

[2] Mt 11:19.

[3] Father Ron Rolheiser, In Exile, 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time A, October 12, 2014.

[4] Is 25:6.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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