I was raised in Kansas but attended a seminary college in distant Ohio. One weekend, a schoolmate who lived nearby invited me to visit his home. Upon arrival that Friday evening, he asked what time I would like to eat. I said, “Whatever time your mom is serving supper.”
He said, “My mom doesn’t cook.”
I asked, “Your mom doesn’t cook on Friday evenings?”
“No,” he said. “My mom doesn’t cook at all.” He might as well have said, “My mom is a space alien.” The notion was one that I had never considered. No judgment. I did not inquire into why neither she nor anyone else cooked in the home. Startling as it was, it was just another “You’re not in Kansas anymore” moment.
Though we were allowed soup and sandwiches in front of the TV when Lassie was on, my family ate its other 20 meals a week at the table. Making that happen was a family affair of food preparation and clean-up. My father was a grocer, who liked to nap after lunch before returning to work. At the end of each lunch, he would pick up the ketchup or mustard, take it to the fridge and keep moving. In exchange, mom slept in while dad made us a full breakfast every morning.
The Mass is a meal. Though we eat very little, it gives us time to take in each other as we receive the Lord’s nourishment.
Uninterrupted family meals have gone the way of Lassie, but we should consider what we have lost, why the Gospel sees it as important and find a way to compensate. Abraham and Sarah entertained angels because their culture demanded that strangers be received as guests. It is over a meal that Abraham was told that Sarah, despite her age, would bear him a son.
On behalf of the world’s many Martha’s, let us admit that Mary would not have been sitting at the Lord’s feet if he had not come for the dinner, which her sister had made possible. The point is that meals are meant to draw us away from our activities, to draw us together and to give us time to take in each other as we take nourishment. Meals are when we can talk and, even more important, listen to what is happening in the lives of others. At table, even those who never stop talking have to give the rest of us a chance to speak unless they intend to starve.
The Mass is a meal. Though, physically, we eat very little, it nonetheless draws us away from our activities, draws us together and gives us time to take in each other as we receive the Lord’s nourishment. That is why missing Mass has always been considered a grave sin. What does it say, in a family, when someone does not want to join the others for supper?
Fast food makes only one promise. That it is fast. Christ promises to feed us with food that will last.
St. Paul speaks of “the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones” (Col 1:26). Spiritual insights, small graces and daily consolations are gifts from God. If our days are not rife with these personal revelations, we need to ask why. Maybe we have drifted away from a living relationship with God. Or maybe we simply need to slow down.
How do we deaccelerate? Seek out silence. Disconnect from media, at least for a few moments each day. Take a walk. Sit outside for a while. Visit an empty church. Watch your child sleep. Follow the path of a bird until it eludes your sight.
God is a sun that never stops shining. Sin can cloud our awareness of God but so can haste. The saints insist that the time that we give to God is never wasted. That, having found refreshment in God, time has a way of coming back to us. Time given to God gives us energy for everything else.
Fast food makes only one promise. That it is fast. Christ promises to feed us with food that will last. But there is a cost. We need to be at his table. And, when we are not, we need to slow down.