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The Catholic Moment: Come to the table

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

By Jeanne Hunt

Jesus had a thing about tables. He loved them. To sit with Him at table and sup on good bread and a little fish, He gathered the best and the brightest folks and the least and the not-so-bright folks. So, it is well within our rights, our heritage even, as Catholics to come together and do the same.

We come together each week at the sacred table, the altar, which provides the setting for the divine bread of the Eucharist. We come together at other tables, too, that invite the Divine Presence in a less formal way, allowing us to connect in a new way as a Catholic family and to testify that Jesus is in our midst: when our parish community gathers in the community hall to share pancakes or spaghetti; when husband and wife sit at the kitchen table to share the day’s concerns over a first cup of coffee; when we lift wine glasses at a dining room table to celebrate milestones and revisit memories; when teenagers chow down on pizza and popcorn at a worn coffee table while watching Netflix movies; when little souls sit with PBJ sandwiches atop their highchair “tables.” At all of these tables, we can be assured that Jesus is with us, enjoying every minute.

Our home tables underscore the meaning of the eucharistic table. The couple on the road to Emmaus remarked, after their visit with Jesus, that they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. If we want those who come after us to embrace the mystery of the Eucharist, we must first meet the Christ at our domestic tables. The home is the first church, the domestic church.
For a symbol to have a sacred meaning, we must first experience it in ordinary ways. Making sense out of the meals shared with family makes a ritual meal shared with God possible. Children cannot grasp the meaning of the eucharistic liturgy if they do not experience the family table first. Families who sit down together at a dining table to pray, eat and talk will grow in their knowledge and love for each other.
Table time brings more than physical nourishment. When we take time to pause and break bread together, three graces occur. First, we are forced to stop the pace of daily life and savor the good tastes of food and conversation. When our pace slows, we have the ability to reflect on what we are about and how we feel about what’s happening. Second, without the distractions of outside noise, the table becomes a quiet oasis where we can be fully present to those with us. Finally, the table is a place of nourishment. In the words of those we love, in the stories of our lives, we encourage one another to stay the course.

Take a little time right now to remember your own sacred table memories: Sunday dinners with relatives; hot oatmeal on a cold morning with Mom singing as she packed your school lunch; chocolate cake and milk at midnight as you talk with Dad about college; romantic suppers for two with candles; feeding your firstborn pureed vegetables and laughing at her response.

This Lent come to your own domestic tables and expect Jesus to show up. Don’t be surprised if the laughter, the conversation and the quiet of a family meal reveal His presence. Jesus knew the graces of the table and used it as sacred space as He proclaimed His kingdom. He wants us to do the same.

Hunt is the catechetical and evangelization advisor for St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications.

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