Consider the wedding at Cana where he changed water into wine, the feeding of the 5,000, visiting the home of Martha and Mary, the Bread of Life discourse, dining with the Pharisees, the Last Supper teachings, and his final instructions to St. Peter on the beach with a simple breakfast of grilled fish after his resurrection. Jesus apparently enjoyed eating and even more, enjoyed the fellowship and interaction of friends and even enemies around the table.
Fr. Sammy of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers during a Manila Chapter retreat in 2002 said that it is in Jesus’ kind of “table fellowship” that we experience God’s love in five areas: nourishment, reconciliation, transformation, His abiding Presence, and commitment to His work.
Jesus’ Program of Holiness
In the Old Testament the Jewish idea of holiness was one of exclusion where ordinary people were separated from the priests and only a few were allowed access to the Inner Temple area. In religious rites, the Jews segregated the ‘righteous ones’ and the ‘favored ones’ from the ‘separated people’, ‘the sinners’ and the ‘ordinary people.” In contrast we see Jesus demonstrating a new program of holiness through ‘table fellowship’ where he invited the apostles, tax collectors, sinners, outcasts and ordinary people to eat with him. Jesus practiced a holiness of inclusion. He showed that |God is a god who addresses the hungers of everyone, not just a few of the ‘favored ones’. We are all included in God’s master plan; we are all included in Jesus’ way of holiness.
The Eucharist is a Source of Nourishment
When we get really hungry, any kind of food always tastes better than it does when we are not hungry. When we gather around the altar, His table, Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. But to fully appreciate the Real Presence of God’s Love, we must be hungry for His Presence in our lives. We need to be aware of the hungers that influence our lives – emotional, financial, spiritual, intellectual, physical, and relationship hungers.
The Gospel of Luke presents Jesus to us as God’s Food for a hungry creation. From the time of his birth in a manger (animal feeding trough) until his ascension into heaven, Jesus shows us in many ways how He wants to nourish us. But we must be hungry and open to receiving this nourishment for us to benefit from it – like Zacchaeus, not like the Pharisees and priests during Jesus’ time.
Forgiveness is an Act of Freedom
In the Eucharist, we experience God’s love as Reconciliation and enter into the Heart of God. Divine forgiveness is the all-encompassing love of God that embraces Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, planting in our hearts the hope of eternal LOVE. Forgiveness is a decision: we are liberated from the hurts and pains of our actions in the past so that we can live fully now and have hope in the future. The point of Reconciliation is to restore our humanity, even as God restored our humanity through Christ Jesus who showed us what it is to be human.
Brokenness begets Transformation
Picture a child with building blocks (like Lego). In order for him to make something new today, he has to tear down the structure he built yesterday. Or look at a room – redecoration is best done if we begin with an empty room. We can only be filled to the extent that we empty ourselves.
We see this clearly in the Eucharist. The Sacrament is called the Breaking of the Bread; it is a sacrament of remembrance of suffering, death, and resurrection. We are being invited to die with Him, a dying that leads to fullness of life. God challenges us to be vulnerable, to allow ourselves to be broken so that He may fill us with His Strength, so that He can enter our life and begin the transformation process.
The Eucharist confronts us with having to die to ourselves so that others may live. Having a place at His table is a challenge to become vulnerable, to live and love and forgive. This Sacrament is an experience in “breaking” so that we can become “whole” again.
Abiding in His Presence
Jesus’ new program of holiness, a holiness of inclusion, invites us to abide in His Presence. St. Paul tells us, “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” This is truly abiding in Him.
How can we abide in His Presence? Prayer, spending time before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration, living in active contemplation. We are called to live the memory of the Eucharist in our everyday lives. Abiding in His Presence leads us to a deeper and more intimate personal relationship with Jesus. We delight in sitting at his feet, listening to him, interiorizing His Presence. Before doing or deciding anything, we ask ourselves, “Is this what Jesus would do?”
As we respond to His Presence in our lives, we become active contemplatives, imitating the values of Jesus, putting order, justice and love in our relationships with others, and living out his kindness and humility in our community activities.
Jesus demands our Commitment
As we experience God’s love as nourishment, reconciliation, transformation and Abiding Presence, we realize that we are liberated and free to continue on our journey of life. We are free to offer Him the gift of ourselves, to live as He wants us to live, life in all its fullness (John 10:10). We are free to choose to heal relationships, to nourish and strengthen our families and our community. We are free to share His love with others and to actualize our humanness – for as we become more3 human, we are able to more deeply share His Divinity.
In community and the Eucharist, we freely gather around His Table as one family in an upbuilding and nourishing experience. But just being at His Table is not enough. Jesus demands our commitment to Him. He challenges us to live in holiness and to go out into the mission field, into the marketplaces and make disciples of all men. He challenges us to be sources of nourishment in a hungry world, to be channels of His peace, His transforming and Abiding Presence and the freedom that He brings.
Only then can we truly and joyfully say that “Yes, we have a place at His Table.” –-Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila (Reprinted from KAPATIRAN, September 2003)
GUIDE FOR REFLECTION, SHARING AND CARING
*How do you practice “holiness” in your family? In the BCBP? Is it a holiness of inclusion or exclusion?
*As we accept the nourishment offered by Jesus, do we become a source for nourishment for others? How can we help feed the needs of the hungry world in our marketplace? In our BCBP community?
*How can you empty yourself so you can experience being filled by Jesus?
*To you, what does the liberation, the freedom offered by Jesus mean?
*How can we, in the BCBP community, exercise this freedom?