Lesson 6: Eucharist as Eating Together

Eating TogetherThe sacraments taken together express the fullness of the Christian life. Baptism welcomes us into the community that shares meals with each other and God.

Although this might appear to be nothing extraordinary to an outside observer, the Church proclaims it the primary means by which her resurrected Lord is present among them. Just as the significance of Jesus’ representation of God was captured in his eating with all sorts of people and just as he ate with his disloyal followers in his resurrection appearances, so he promises to eat with us every time we engage in a Eucharist. The epitome of the Christian life is welcoming others to share our table with God.

That makes any refusal to welcome all a betrayal of God’s mission. How in the world can an institution who claims its primary job is witnessing to Jesus’ Way exclude anyone from his table? Over and over the Gospel reports Jesus eats even with sinners and tax collectors. If our meals are truly a foretaste of the feast to come, our refusal to share our food indicates we think we shall be the only ones in heaven. At least, it pretends we have more authority than God in deciding who is present at his table.

Some of my most memorable life experiences have been Roman Catholic priests welcoming me to the Communion table. They have been so exhilarating that I have decided nobody has a right to exclude me from God’s table. I go forward even if some officials do not welcome me.

I have also come to think we humans speak nonsense when we try to offer a physical explanation of the bread and wine becoming Christ’s body and blood. That’s like thinking we can define completely the love shared by family or friends. It’s best that we just have faith in Jesus’ promise to be present when we eat and drink together.

I came to appreciate that there is a whole lot going on in any meal when I taught first communion classes to preschoolers. Anytime I asked them what they do at meals, they replied that they talked. I expected they would say something about eating, but just about every time they said they talked. After this experience was repeated over decades, I realized when we share food, we also share ourselves. In that sense, whenever we eat with Jesus at an Eucharist, he fully shares himself with us, and we share ourselves with all those around the table. Hopefully, we also leave ready to share ourselves fully with anyone who eats with us. Every meal becomes a symbol of love.

Although our modern life features fast food and eating alone, choosing to eat with someone still indicates a significant choice. Eating together indicates some kind of bond, often a loving relationship. When we speak of eating together, we talk about the most basic form of community.

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  1. paul wildman says:

    Well put plus for me there is also another dimension to the Eucharist that is (as above) every meal becomes a ‘symbol of love’ – between us and between us and God . I submit food represents the bounty of Mother Nature/the Earth upwards towards us. This we must seek to respect and restore this bio-physical/environmental aspect of our being as well as our relations with one another and with God. I went to a group a year back that did not believe in the Eucharist yet had shared meals. For me this ticked only one of the three boxes above. For me best lesson so far. Thx ciao paul

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