Many of my fondest memories were created at a family meal around a table. Relaxed Sunday dinners when no one had to rush off for work or commitments, picnics at the park in the great outdoors, holiday meals with all the finery, birthday celebrations, and nightly dinners where we all paused amidst our busy schedules were the catalyst to so many good and wonderful things in my life. Whatever the occasion, the common thread was that our family intentionally gathered together, prayed, ate, and shared precious time with each other. It taught me the importance of being a family unit (both immediate and extended), and it revealed to me the richness of each person’s part in the building of a family as God intended it. The way we are linked together with our combined unique talents and personalities creates a beautiful and diverse whole unit. The stories shared, the laughter, the lessons learned are where I came to understand the “heart” of family. The communion of our rich and diverse individual lives seated at table together strengthens and nourishes us much more than the food we partake of. Our bodies and our spirits are nourished at these meals.
It is by no accident or random act that Jesus gathered His family and apostles around the table together. It was a calling together in a very basic physical manner—to nurture the body and the soul of each person there. The Communion Jesus instituted is the very essence by which He feeds us with what we need to carry out our mission as Christians, to share the Gospel message in our words and deeds. His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity is the complete sacrifice given to us each and every time we approach His table at Mass. The more we gather there, the more we are nourished with grace and wisdom, strength and virtue to equip us to enter the daily fray and to live the Christian life—to be bearers of God’s truth and love.
Following His example, a family learns and grows from intentionally sharing meals at table together. All that is involved in this gathering teaches and molds us. The food preparation, the setting of the table, giving thanks in prayer, sharing the food, the conversation exchanged, and the cleaning up are simple acts in themselves, but done together creates a unity and rhythm that cultivates the value of each person in the unit. As a child, I was privileged to grow up in a home where family meals were an integral part of our daily routine. I was also raised to recognize the importance of attending Holy Mass together, and it was a special time of week for our family.
The Rev. Fulton J. Sheen so eloquently said: “The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white host.” This is how Jesus feeds us—yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He made the profoundly complete meal so simple for us. All we need to do is to gather at His table.
With each year, I come to realize how paramount it is to gather at the altar, to be present at the table of our Lord, in communion with my brothers and sisters, and to receive the Eucharist together—our Bread of Life! Through this sharing with our Lord and Savior, our Creator and Redeemer, our love stories grow deep. From this fullness I am able to love and serve my husband and children more perfectly, treat my neighbor with care and compassion, forgive those who hurt me more easily, give more, and want less. All goodness and mercy, tenderness and courage come from the meal at the table of the Lord. It has become an essential part of each day for me, and the blessings abound from it. I am grateful for the freedom we have to be able to attend Mass daily and to receive the divine sustenance needed to live in this fractured world. Receiving Jesus—His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—is the ultimate gift. It helps me to be a better person and the ripple effect going out to others is endless. God’s design is so perfect! I encourage each of you to reflect on your personal spiritual love story and invite you to join your community at the table of the Lord as often as possible to be strengthened in what is necessary to bring about goodness in our lives. This love of God can heal this broken and divided world, and it is accomplished by God dwelling in and working through us—one person loving another. And a great place to practice is around the family table! As Mother Teresa told us: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”