Eating together as a family is not as popular as it used to be. Before life got too complicated family meals were important occasions not to be missed. Now, it seems that many families, far from communicating with one another face-to-face over the dinner table, now communicate with strangers tap-tap-tapping texts as they eat their meal in virtual silence. This is a shame, because meals together are important. Our Lord ate with others and He shared Himself in a setting where everyone spent significant time with each other. In fact Our Lord did this so often and with so many different types of people that His enemies accused Him of being a glutton and a drunkard.
While the Synod of Bishops has been discussing the role of the family in the 21st century, it would be good for us to reflect today on our own experience and understanding of family, and in particular of our eating meals together. This should be particularly important to us living as we do in a culture which conveys the message that eating is something we now do on the run, on our own and with little regard for sharing ourselves, our time, our thoughts, and our caring to be with others at meals. Sharing food with others carries implications of friendship, trust, closeness, caring, love, and even forgiveness. It’s hard to harbour hostilities against someone while at the same time sharing our food, ourselves, and our time with each other at the same table. Breaking bread together means breaking the chains of resentment, hostility, and bitterness that hold us in bondage.
One of the great themes in the Scriptures is that of the Messianic Banquet. A banquet is an extra-special meal which we dress up for and we can expect to eat some really tasty food. Banquets also call us to share forgiveness, tolerance, understanding, and even love. Trust, friendship and intimacy become food for our souls when we share this community with others.
The prophets understood the Messianic Banquet as something God would give us in fulfilment of His promises to us. Banquets are generally given in times of fulfilment, in times when promises are fulfilled. We have banquets at weddings and on great state occasions when the mutual bonds of friendship are strengthened with other nations. In the imagery of the Bible they are celebrated at End Times, when hoped for things are realized and made present to us.
Thanks to many of the apocalyptic horror films we see on the silver screen, most people don’t understand the proper use of the term “End Times”. The birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ ushered in the End Time: that time when God fulfils His promises to us in His Son.
Now, with all of these ideas whirling around in our heads, let’s now ask ourselves why we are here at Mass. When we celebrate the Mass we go back and enter once again into the Last Supper. We enter into what we call the Paschal Mystery: all that Jesus did to join our humanity into His divinity so that through Him, with Him, and in Him, He can take us back to our Father in heaven, where we will share forever in God’s Messianic Banquet.
The Mass is our earthly sharing in the Messianic Banquet. Jesus is our host; and not only that, He is the One who wants to share Himself with us, giving us Himself in the Living Bread that is the Eucharist.
So what do I bring to this Banquet? Am I here with a heart loaded down with resentments? Am I here because I have to be here, or because I want to be here? Am I here, entering back into the Upper Room with Jesus, or am I here with my own little agenda, with a heart filled with stones? Over the last few weeks we’ve discovered what it is to be a hypocrite. Am I a hypocrite, just going through the motions of being a Christian, preaching one thing while doing another?
And what about those people in our world who are hungry: hungry not only for food, but hungry in their empty hearts and thirsting in their souls for love, care and concern?
There are those, too, who hunger and thirst for justice and peace. They hunger and thirst for a system of justice that treats every person with equal dignity and respect.
If the End Time is that time in which God’s promises are being fulfilled, and if we are here sharing in Christ’s Messianic Banquet, then perhaps we should ask ourselves how we are fulfilling God’s promises in the lives of those around us.
The Mass isn’t all about “me and Jesus,” it’s about “we and Jesus.” Am I here because I really want to share myself, or am I more concerned about going home so I can busy myself with only what I want to do? Each Sunday God calls us to extend this brief spell of Eucharistic intimacy into every detail of our day and the coming week. We don’t have to face life alone. Rather we walk with one another and with Christ.