By MAUREEN SMITH, Commentary | Published May 2, 2023
A meal with friends can be one of the best medicines your soul can ask for. Just a few weeks ago, sitting in the sun, sharing good food, laughing, remembering and appreciating the gift of decades of friendship revived my spirits better than any other thing I can imagine. There is just something about nourishing your body and your spirit together with your community that gives new life.
Sometimes, when I am at Mass, I try to imagine the Last Supper. The dust coming in on the breeze through the windows; the smell of food and chaos of a small cooking space trying to prepare a meal for a large crowd; the falling dusk and ominous dinner conversation dimming the mood from joyful and hopeful to worrisome. This is a meal like no other. Not even the first Passover. None of the apostles was prepared for the next couple of days, so it’s good they got a good meal in them before they went out into the night.
Meals became Jesus’ signature post-resurrection activity. At Emmaus, they knew him by the breaking of the bread. On the seashore, he cooked and ate fish. In our own churches, he invites us to the table for a meal at every Mass. Jesus loves a banquet.
Universally, we gather for meals to mark significant events in our lives. From birthdays to babies, we celebrate by sharing good food. Food is comfort in times of loss. The repast after a funeral is where we tell our stories and urge the family to eat a little something. I had no idea how many people came to Mom’s funeral until we walked to the hall where tables overflowing with food waited us. It was the first meal I remember eating all week.
We have been writing in this series of revival columns about coming back to the Eucharist and having a personal encounter with Jesus. When we share a meal (like no other) with our brothers and sisters, we can go out into the night prepared for this sometimes-hard world. It is also how we recognize and celebrate the resurrected Jesus. Much of this revival is about renewing our understanding of the theology of True Presence, but what if it was also a meal with old friends meant to renew each of us?
When my family moved to Mississippi, we met the people who would become our local family in two places: the weekly parish supper and at meals hosted by our neighbors Beth and Dan. I love going to Mass and sharing the meal our Lord has prepared for us, but I also love sitting at a picnic hearing all the news from the neighbors or meeting an acquaintance for breakfast or lunch in hopes of getting to know them better.
My hope for this revival is that the meal we share with our Lord becomes a meal we share with our community. That as we break bread, we recognize Jesus in each of those gathered with us and we revive one another for the work ahead.
Maureen Smith is director of communications for the Archdiocese of Atlanta and is a member of the archdiocesan Eucharistic Revival Task Force.