IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD

Dear Jesus,

I love what you have asked your disciples to do in order to have you present among them.

What greater sign of your love for us can there be than your invitation to gather around your table to pray over bread and wine and so give thanks to God as we renew your dying and rising?  What greater sign of unity could there be than sharing the one bread and the one cup after we have renewed the sacrifice that makes heaven possible for us?  What greater comfort in life can there be than to be reminded sacramentally that the forgiveness of our sins comes through the shedding of your blood?  Sometimes thinking about all of this is overwhelming – enough to move me to tears.

The problem I have comes from remembering how much trouble you got into because of the table fellowship you practiced.  Have you ever wondered if you would have been more successful had you practiced some discrimination about those with whom you chose to break bread?  A lot of the people with whom you ate and drank had pretty unsavory pasts.  Tax collectors.  Prostitutes.  Generic sinners.  Lepers.  The poor.  Apparently representatives from these groups could regularly be found at your table and you could be seen waiting on them.  I suppose you even washed their feet.  Outsiders looked on and applied to you the ancient adage about birds of a feather.

Wouldn’t common sense dictate that if you had chosen more influential people – financially successful people, people with prestige and power – your own causes would have flourished?  Word would have gotten around about your guest lists and people would have been impressed and would have connived to get themselves on the list.  Shouldn’t you have made access to your table a little more difficult?

I think about the imagery you used in the parable about the banquet giver.  The first ones he invited weren’t interested in attending.  When the invitation was repeated with the information that all the preparations for the lavish feast were complete, some offered excuses for staying away, and some brutalized the servants, even killing the ones bearing the invitation.  The host then sends his servants out to the highways and byways to drag in the riffraff, those who probably would have had no other place to go and could only wonder what it would be like to sit at such a table as the one the banquet giver offered.  It’s true isn’t it, that the story you tell illustrates God’s attitude?  You’re saying that God delights in just about anybody’s coming to the heavenly banquet.  God is not nearly as discriminating as some would have God be.

I think I can understand the hurt feelings of the banquet giver when his invitation was refused – at the last minute after the lavish meal had been prepared.  But to go from that to rounding up just anybody and then practically forcing them to enter the banquet hall is a bit of a stretch, don’t you think?  You’d think that God wants to save everybody.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am grateful for your invitation to come to the table.  I try never to forget the generosity and kindness you extended to me when I realized my own sins and asked for pardon.  I can remember the elation I felt in those first heady days, what it was like getting used to walking on the new Way with all those new friends.

When you think about it, though, my sins were kind of ordinary.  I think I could honestly say that they were so ordinary that I can imagine most people sinning the way I did.  I say that knowing that there are other kinds of sinners doing things that I could never imagine doing.  Do you think that the table should be open to those people too?  Some of the bishops are making it pretty clear that the churches are not to be that open.  They are even telling some Catholics that they should not approach the table.  What is the message sinners who might be wondering if they would ever be welcome inside are hearing?

Even as I write these words I am starting to feel uncomfortable.  I can see you shaking your head and hear you wondering if I will ever learn.  Is that voice inside me your voice telling me that if I can judge some people unworthy of gathering at the table, I ought to think about absenting myself as an unworthy one, too?  That thought makes me feel like I have ice water in my veins.  Being part of the assembly gathering around the table on the Lord’s Day is important to me.  I am grateful for the call to do so.

I have to admit that lately I have felt a tension inside as I look about the assembly with whom I have gathered.  Do you know what I mean when I say that it bothers me that it is so monochromatic?  It isn’t only that just one race is represented; it’s also that everyone seems to be of comfortable means.  There are not any who are obviously impoverished.  I don’t see any disabled people being engaged in liturgical ministry.  It’s all too comfortable.  I remember one place I used to attend.  A Down syndrome young man was a greeter.  One of the Eucharistic Ministers was severely physically handicapped.  I miss that kind of witness.  Without it, it is hard for me to sense your presence because I have come to believe that you are especially present in the poor, in the disabled, and in those considered to be the off scouring of society.  I am wondering if the assembly I am looking for might be one that better imitates the one you illustrated in the parable.  I feel torn.

Maybe I have more to learn, especially about what you mean when you say, “Do this in my memory.”  That has a lot to do with the breaking and the pouring, doesn’t it?  I have to be willing to be broken.  I have to be willing to be poured out – for anybody and all.  Then you will be there.  All of a sudden other words of yours are ringing in my ears.  I hear you saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and I will refresh you.”  You meant it when you said all, didn’t you?

Give me another chance.  Let me try again.  I’ll continue the search and allow myself to be stretched.  Maybe it won’t be that difficult.  I’d rather do that than be added to the list of those who excuse themselves and thereby miss the Banquet and miss you.

Sincerely,

Didymus

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