Food means a lot to us seminarians. Seriously, it’s not uncommon for a guy to show up here at the seminary and put on the first year fifteen (or 20!). I mean, we get three solid meals a day cooked by a very talented kitchen staff that really cares for us, mainly so that we can focus on our studies, our prayer, and our formation, and not have to worry about where our next meal will be coming from.
“But wait a second, Tim,” you might be saying, “sounds like you’re pretty spoiled down there!”
Yes, we most certainly are, so it’s especially important that we all consider what food and meals mean to us, other than the temptation of gluttony and the sweet pastries that happen to be the specialty of our head chef down here. After all, there is a popular quote from Fr. Robert Karris, who says “that in Luke’s gospel Jesus got Himself crucified by the way He ate.” It was a very serious matter who Jesus shared His meals with. In His Jewish culture the meal was a way to share God’s blessings with one another and to thank God for all that he had given them. They even celebrated the foundational event of their covenant with God by a meal, the Passover.
What should this teach us about how we share in meals? Some of us at the seminary like to sit quietly and eat, especially in the morning, when we’re just waking up. But again, our community can be built around meal time. At dinner we often begin with Evening Prayer and Mass, walking with each other from the chapel into the dining hall. Then we wait in line together to get our food and finally spread out throughout the dining hall, pretty much sitting with a new bunch of guys every time. We’re even joined by our professors and priests. And you know what one of my favorite parts of seminary life is (besides the chance to fall deeper in love with Christ, of course!): when meals start in silence for a couple minutes as we get down to the business of eating, but then we hang out for twice as long just chatting and coming to love being around each other more and more.
Now what about away from the seminary? How do we join in the meal with our families? What if we recognized the Eucharist as the ultimate model for a meal with loved ones: the opportunity to share in God’s blessings and to receive His abundance with grateful hearts. At Mass we are invited to Jesus’ table, where He provides Himself as sustenance. We are fed by the Good News and the Bread of Life. Just imagine if we modeled our meals at home on such a model of conversation (the Liturgy of the Word) and thankfulness for our food (the Liturgy of the Eucharist)!
So as we sit down to our next meal with our families or friends, let us remember that Jesus Himself shows us every Sunday (and every day, too!) how to enter into a meal with our families. No, our families aren’t perfect. No, we here at the seminary don’t always enjoy our meals with proper gratitude. But yes, Jesus has given us the meal of compassion and healing. And it is in the spirit of this meal, the Eucharist, that we should try to enter into whenever we have the blessing of food on our table and family to share it with.
Be not afraid!
Yes, the whole seminary is praying for you guys!