I had the good fortune of sitting in a conference where a “guru” talked about food, or rather, as he specified, about the “table”. Then, in a sharing of a cardinal where he also talked about the “table”. I would like to share with you some highlights of what they have given.
In many homes, communities, eateries and fast food chains, food is never lacking. What is lacking in these places are “tables”. The table, obviously, is where one puts something to eat. Food, as well, can be taken for granted, for it is a biological necessity, that even we humans share with the animal world. But the “table” referred to here should never be taken for granted, especially in the homes. The food, related to the “table”, it is not what we eat but how we eat it together. There is a big difference between animal and human behavior when eating, especially at table. More than an object, the “table” is the ambience, the atmosphere, the place of welcome, where food is placed and where people can “share”, “dialogue”, “exchange ideas”, “listen”, “relate”, “narrate experiences” that uplifts and where one “truly feels at home”. Food, in this case, when shared at “table”, have an integral value that can satisfy not only the body but the spirit as well, and those around the table. When the “table” is present food is not only eaten, but it becomes sharing that strengthens relationships, that promotes communication leading to communion, that becomes grace leading to charity, which is basically sharing, hence, gratuitous, a gift coming from above – this is the reason why we say “grace” before and after meals at table.
The “table” is absent when, despite the abundance of food on it, those eating for example, are glued to a TV set that has invaded the dining room or when those sitting at table do not face each other but are glued to their respective smartphones. Worse, to “speak” to the person across the table, one sends a sms or an emoji (although, these too are valid when used properly). In this case, food without the “table” can be dehumanizing. Observe how animals are fed. Each one has his own place or plate to eat, otherwise, eating on the same plate would mean continuous fighting and wrestling for food among them. It should be different among us: we should sit, relate and eat together!
When the sharing of food at “table” happens, the table becomes a “cathedra” where one learns the fundamentals and wisdom of life, like good breeding, harmonious relationship especially among family members and with others (when guests join the table), deepening of religion, enhancement of culture, etc. At times, though, the mature ones must filter some “straying” ideas shared at table. And of course, the bigger the “table” in dimension and atmosphere, the greater will be the sharing!
We now invite ourselves to gather at the biggest Table of them all. The Table of the Most Precious Body and Blood of the Lord. The “table” at the Last Supper now becomes the “magisterium” that encompasses all the other teachings. Love or charity, as the epitome of sharing, is a Person broken and shared for the “life of the world” in order for it to “have life in abundance”. The “magisterium” of love, the greatest commandment, precisely was taught while Jesus and his disciples were at table. Love is the the mark by which people will recognize us as his disciples: “when you love one another”. It was at table when the Lord gave us his very person, whole and entire, humanity and divinity, shared among “friends” not “slaves”, so that our “joy may be complete” . This is his living and loving “offering” for the life of all: “take and eat”, “take and drink”, that is, partake of the “daily bread” that we pray for at the Lord’s Prayer. Love truly generates sharing and sustains communion. The “food of angels” becomes truly life-giving, “life to the full”, “eternal life”. All these have become possible, thanks to the Eucharistic Table!
I wish that when food is scarce, may the “table” be even larger. When the “table” is empty, I pray that persons of goodwill put food on the table so that others may live.