The advantages of the family gathering together to share a meal are well-documented. Many experts in various fields of expertise tell us that the family meal helps our kids to stay off drugs, do better in school, learn to socialize, bond with family members, and make healthy lifestyle choices. Family mealtime is important.
In the Gospels, we see that Jesus spends much of his time eating with others: the wedding feast at Cana, feeding the five thousand, dinner with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, making breakfast at the seashore for His apostles, breaking bread with the disciples he met on the road to Emmaus, and of course, the Last Supper. For Jesus and his disciples as well as for the people of His time, mealtimes were significant. They conveyed community and in Jesus’ case, showed His love for His followers.
Like most families, we are very busy during the week. With seven of our eight children living at home and all doing different things from working full-time and part-time jobs, going to school, and involved in extracurricular activities, it often seems that our domestic church has a revolving door and a twenty-four hour open kitchen. On most evenings at dinner time, no one would ever suspect that nine people live in my house.
It is a poverty of our times that we have filled our waking moments with so much activity. Time spent together as a family has become a casualty of our busyness. For most people, Sunday has lost its significance as the Lord’s Day. As Catholics we need to rediscover Sunday as the most important day of the week where we gather in thanksgiving and praise for Jesus’ sacrifice and also to strengthen the bonds of family.
On Sunday, we take part in two meaningful meals. At Sunday Mass, we celebrate the memorial of Jesus’ sacrifice in the Holy Eucharist, the sacrificial meal. Through the Blessed Sacrament, “we unite ourselves to Christ who makes us sharers in His Body and Blood to form a single body.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1331) We continue our celebration at the Sunday evening dinner table where we unite with each other as one family. The Holy Eucharist nourishes our souls so that we can do God’s will. Our Sunday evening meal provides the nourishment we need so that fueled by love of God and love for reach other, we can go out and do His work.
During the week, I rely on quick, usually nutritious, practical dinners that are eaten at different times as people come and go. But Sunday is different. Sunday dinner is an event. Delicious smells waft through the house hours before dinnertime. Dessert is expected and does not disappoint. If guests join us for dinner, they are welcomed as part of the family.
A friend told me that when he was growing up, Sunday evening dinners were special in his home, too. His mother took great care in preparing the delicious meal and she used the good dishes to show how important the dinner was. Whenever anyone asked her why she went through all that preparation, she explained that they were celebrating the feast of Christ the King.
As we gather together in love and as we thank and ask our Lord to bless us and His bounty in the Grace Before Meals, we too celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Our Sunday feast is His Sunday feast because the meal that we share is a very concrete sign of His Providence on His day.
The week may be busy and the weeknight meals plain and eaten hurriedly. But on Sunday, gather the family now and in the years ahead. Celebrate each other. Celebrate God’s bounty. Celebrate the feast of Christ the King.
Copyright 2014, Terry McDermott