Thursday, July 21, 2011

THE PASCHAL MEAL: MEMORY AND MYSTERY (Lk 22:14-20; Acts 2:42-47)

My First Communion happened later in life and so I have a clear memory of it, but because it came together with baptism and confirmation it lost the significance some who remember it as a child have given it. The pictures of girls with their first communion dresses looking like innocent little brides help make me think what a sweet moment in the faith journey of the family that must have been. How their moms and dads must have loved them! My first communion is overshadowed by the baptism which was a much more significant event. But I do know it was in order to receive communion that I began the process that led to baptism.

For me the family meal and dinner with friends are occasions of enjoyable conversation, long discussions, with everyone welcome and everyone well fed.  Solidarity with humanity and the rest of creation can happen in the most isolated of places. Garrison Keillor writes a story about the frozen lake where fishermen bond with the vast icy beauty of the lake and the mystery of the life below the surface. Father Joe asked us if we ever saw Grumpy Old Men … not the Vatican, he said jokingly… the movie. He referenced the image of grumpy men in a hut on a frozen lake. If stark places like this bring about solidarity, what of the meal with friends? I guess the point is we feel if we can be in solidarity with even grumpy old men and a frozen lake, then we can be in solidarity with all the rest.

One of the great scandals of our time is the excommunication of so many Catholics over their social or political views, or someone’s opinion of their lifestyle and the authority of the Church what is right and what is wrong. If we are no longer able to receive Eucharist when we are ex-communicated, what is communicated in this meal? What do I communicate? Why is meal connected with communication at all? It is at meals that we learn to share heart to heart with family and friends. If it is communication to celebrate Eucharist, it ought to be a communication of thanks. We give you thanks O Lord for the gifts we are about to receive in this meal and in each other. I hope to be able to say this at every meal and mean it with my whole heart. In truth sometimes I struggle with this when communication seems too managed, too stilted or phony, too judgmental or hypocritical … or when the political tensions call for discretion and make it seem that no subject of meaning is safe to bring up. I think we have a long way to go as Church to realize that communication more important than excommunication.