The idea of people coming together to share a meal at a common table sometime seems to be outdated or a bit strange. More than ever, we are busy with plenty of personal pursuits and passions pulling us away from one another. Even the practice of finding time to slow down and have a family meal together can come across as trivial, impractical and unnecessary, especially for those of us accustomed to spending an inordinate amount of time isolated by digital devices.
While social-cultural events may bring us together, like going to a ball game or musical concerts, these moments are often episodic and provide little space for personal interactions. Nevertheless, we can recognize in them a real sense of connection and belonging that otherwise would remain absent. The fact that we value these collective experiences and make room for them speaks to our deepest hunger for community and communion with one another — so not all is lost.
Likewise, in our Christian story, we can see how important belonging to a community of faith is for our personal growth and communal identity. In the Acts of the Apostles, for example, we hear how the community came together to share their lives and possessions with one another: “All who believed were together and had things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need (Acts 2:44-45). From the start, then, our Christian identity and growth in faith connects us to the care for and solidarity with others.
Among the essential values of any follower of Christ is the genuine desire to safeguard our common table of communion in ways that reflect unity and truth and dispelled divisions (1 Corinthians 11:17-22). As St. Paul reminds us, we need to come together before the Lord’s Table of plenty with sincere intentions to support and “wait” for one another: “So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat wait for one another. So that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation” (1 Corinthians 11:33).
Part of the waiting for one another implies a sincere willingness to encounter and embrace one another as sisters and brothers on the way — to know that in our mutual waiting we can discover more about who we are and can be for each other. More to the point, our waiting in each other’s presence by the table of the Lord, already, compel us to an examination of conscience and spiritual discernment in the Spirit of truth and mercy.
We know in the Spirit and from our sacramental partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ that we really do belong together — nothing can separate us from the love that unites us (Romans 8:38-39). In fact, we can ardently say that it is because we partake of Christ’s Body and Blood that transformation and renewal of life becomes possible. The cup we share and the bread that is broken for us rightly brings us together in ways that go beyond our human limitations.
Indeed, we are ever new before the table of the Lord. As Pope Francis reminds us in his apostolic letter “Desiderio Desideravi,” “We need to be present at that Supper, to be able to hear His voice, to eat His Body and to drink His Blood. We need Him. In the Eucharist and in all the sacraments we are guaranteed the possibility of encountering the Lord Jesus and of having the power of his Paschal Mystery reach us” (“Desiderio Desideravi” 11). Far from being trivial or impractical, our mutual encounter in the Lord is necessary.
F. Javier Orozco
First published July 15, 2022 in the St. Louis Review