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EATING AT TABLE VIS A VIS THE EUCHARIST
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
I would like to invite everybody to go back to the times when you are at table with your family or with your friends. Who were there present? What was the atmosphere? Was it quiet? Was it fun? Was it happy, or sad? Was there any conversation that took place? What did you talk about? Where were you seated? Were you comfortable at all seating with those people present?
I think that the most used place in the house other than our bedrooms or the living room, is the dining area. But though oftentimes used, it is also the least place in the house that people really make the most of, in terms of learning from each other’s presence.
I grew up in a big family of seven boys and I must say that it wasn’t easy at all! You have to assert yourself in order to be noticed. I remember getting a small portion of fried chicken served at table because I was the last one to be at table while the first ones get the best part of it. But one thing that keeps afresh whenever I recall those moments is the memory of being part of the family! I may not have the best part of the fried chicken, but I know for sure that somebody remembered setting aside even a small portion of that fried chicken for me. There was somebody who considers me as FAMILY!
I think that our Gospel this Sunday resounds a similar thought. With five loaves and two fishes the multitude was able to even have more than enough. Hence, the question lies not in the quantity of the resources, but on how it was distributed to the multitude. As Jesus’ disciples, we should not miss the point of acknowledging first and foremost the providence of God on this account and more importantly, our own part as recipients of that providence. Let me point out the following:
As we are gifted by God with “priceless treasures,” we honor this gift by sharing it to others. We have acknowledged our giftedness from last Sunday’s Gospel, the gift of the Kingdom of God. This Sunday as we hear the account of the “Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes,” Jesus goes to the extreme by initiating the ultimate gesture of generosity to feed the thousands of people who were there present. As an example, we are called to do the same by sharing our resources generously and sacrificially in order to help alleviate both physical and spiritual hunger of our fellowmen.
Mother Teresa once narrated a personal experience about the generosity of poor family she ministered to. Learning about this poor Hindu family who had been starving for many days, she visited them at some point and gave a parcel of rice to the mother of the family. After giving it to her, she was surprised to see that the woman divided the rice into two equal portions and gave one to the Moslem neighbor. When asked by Mother Teresa about the sacrificial deed, the woman replied: “My family can manage with half of what you brought. My neighbor’s family is in greater need because they have several children who are starving.” Today’s Gospel tells the story of a small boy who showed this same kind of generosity. By sharing his small lunch (five slices of barley bread and two dried fish), he became the instrument of a miracle in Jesus’ hands.
Moral of the story? No one is too poor that he/she cannot give anything. The whole concept of stewardship is not only based on how much we give about our talent, time, and treasure. The main essence of the concept is to actually tell us that giving THEM (talent, time and treasure) should come from the very knowledge that EVERYTHING that we have is a GIFT and because it is a GIFT, it is part of our very nature as GIFTED individuals to SHARE those gifts. When we eat together at table do we first consider our own giftedness and so share in the little that we have at table?
We learn through this Gospel account that “WE ARE EUCHARISTIC MINISTERS” of God. How? By imitating Christ as he did in the multiplication of the loaves and fishes: a. “take” humbly and generously what God gives us; b. “bless” it by offering it to others in God’s love; c. “break” away from our own needs and selfish interests for the sake of others; d. “give” with joy-filled gratitude to God who has blessed us with so much even the cost of His very life. These Eucharistic gestures of Jesus remind us that we have NOTHING to claim as our own as they are all gifts from God and we give them back because that is what we should do as “Eucharistic Ministers” of God. In fact, “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving” – a thanksgiving of that sacrifice made by Christ on the Cross that we may be saved and that we may have life to the fullest!
Whenever we are at table, these Eucharistic gestures MUST be remembered. The food served at table should always be a reminder of Divine Providence.
We are to partake or eat Jesus as the Bread of Life. How? By constantly receiving Him worthily in the Blessed Eucharist. Remember from last Sunday that I highlighted our participation in the Eucharistic celebration as one of the threefold-realities of the Kingdom of God. Part of this is also spending a quiet and alone time with God, apart from the family and the busyness of the day. The problem with people of the modern world is that we refuse to take time to be in silence and reflection. We are so engrossed with work that we forget the God of work. People do not run out of questions. And answers to these questions are oftentimes found through reflection especially those questions that need spiritual insight such as the mystery of life and death. By partaking the Bread of Life, we are nourished by God with the gift of His grace of understanding and discernment.
There is more to simply treating the dining area as a place to eat. As disciples of Christ, such venue MUST be treated more like an environment where one learns from each others experiences through a worthwhile conversation; an environment of thanksgiving to God’s providence; and more importantly, a sure venue to prepare us to partake of the spiritual bread in the Eucharist. So, the next time you go to eat together at the dining table treat that moment as an ongoing miracle where Christ accompanies your family in the breaking of the bread.