Last week Fr. Micah asked for a blessing from Maria after Mass for a successful doctor’s appointment. She gave it with gusto… a Hispanic grandma’s blessing. She turned and gave one to me too. I crossed myself with “gusto” as well. We Catholics, like our Jewish ancestors, take our blessings seriously. “Abuelas” particularly Hispanic grandmas in this part of the world give them to their little ones before bedtime. It “sort-a” resembles the one the priest gives at the end of Mass. It changes the night from a scary, dark place to one surrounded in love and safety.
I can still remember the Baltimore Catechism definition we had to memorize as children prior to first communion in the fifties. “An outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.” I still like it remembered “by heart.” This weekend we honor the Catholic “Sacramental” imagination that sees God’s divine presence in ordinary things like: oil, water, bread and wine. Like last weekend’s feast of the Trinity, we honor that grace available to people of faith in the most ordinary details of human life.
A daily family meal is a tradition disappearing quickly in American homes. It scares me. There was a public service ad a few years back that advertised an imaginary product for parents. It was a gadget that temporarily handicapped all electronics in the home. One family found themselves at the table for an evening meal when TV, computers, cell phones and video games all ceased functioning. It is tough for all us to fast from these gadgets long enough to join each other around the table. But the payoff is magnificent. The table is the foundational human ritual that prepares us for other sacramental things. It is hard to understand the Eucharist without it.
Catholics with their imaginations shaped by angels and saints, holy water and incense; need to re-cultivate this “cult” of the family table. It only takes two to eat well. But even one person alone at a table can bless our Provident God who provides us food and makes our lives food for others. So decorate those tables. Have a meal with someone that takes your breath away, a glass of wine or other favorite libation that it is so good as the psalms say, it “gladdens the hearts of men (and women).” We become what eat at the Eucharistic table, inspired and empowered for service and for witnessing to the goodness and compassionate care of God. I am so moved to see heads bowed over a restaurant table. BLESSING CHANGES EVERYTING1
With open hands we gather this weekend to celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It invites us to clear a space and to let go of some of our culture’s fast food customs to go back to the table with someone. It signifies an attitude of openness and gratitude fed by the Bread of Life from the table of the Lord and even at the tables in our own homes.
Thanks for all the generosity that flows from the Lord’s Table here at St. Mary’s. From the friar’s sacred garden to the food boxes of St. Vincent de Paul, from the ministers of care passing through the rooms of the sick at Banner – University Hospital to those who volunteer for the liturgy and to catechize our young people, from the song of our choirs and the volunteers at the front door, we are a Eucharistic, a people who put bless into everything.
A gentle week.
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM