One of the things I dislike the most in life is having to eat by myself, but luckily I don't have to do that very often. A meal should be shared and enjoyed with others. It's not just the food itself that is most important in this, but the company of others that sit with you while eating.
Quite often we read in scripture instances where meals are eaten together. In Genesis we see Abram instructing Sara to prepare a meal for the strangers that arrived at their tent and Abram sat with them as they ate. In Exodus, the people are told to prepare a lamb the night before their deliverance in the Passover and to share what they have with others. Of course, in the New Testament we read of our Lord sharing the last supper(Passover) with this apostles. My favorite story of sharing a meal is when Jesus, after the resurrection, arrives at the shore during the early hours of morning while his apostles are out fishing on their boat, and he is cooking fish on a fire and invites them to come and share this meal.
The very birth of Christ shows us the importance of food and a meal shared. Mary placed the child Jesus in a manger. This manger, basically a feeding trough for animals and a word meaning "to eat" in French, was the first hint at what our Lord had come to do: feed us and be with us for eternity. Offered to us in a manger as real food and real drink, He is the bread, the manna come down from heaven. Spiritual food. In Holy Communion, we share in the body and blood of Christ in a meal that makes us a part of the One Body of Christ along with all the other faithful.
The importance in having dinner together as a family must not be overlooked. This was instilled in me when I was young and still living home. Now, with my own family as we sit for our meals, we turn off all radios, the TV and do not answer the phone except to tell the caller we will call them back, unless it is an emergency. As in Mass, I want no distractions during dinner. When the kids were young and in school, the meal was the time we could delve into our children's minds, ask about their day and tell them about ours. We laughed, joked and we also had serious talks. Problems were solved at meals, and questions were asked as well as answered. It wasn't just the eating that was important but what sharing a meal meant for the unity of our family. This One Body. A family meal where everyone is present is it's own prayer, like a rosary said as a family.
At times, we share our meal with visitors. Many of them never say grace before a meal, so it's quite amusing to see their expressions when family members quietly extend their hands for visitors to hold and grace is said. Most times no one mentions our saying of grace, and if they do comment on it, it's usually because they are surprised to see that some people still give thanks for their food. You can be sure that on subsequent visits they know grace will be said and they also stretch out their hands to us. When in Rome...
I've always felt that shared meals were an extension of Holy Communion. I know we do not partake in the Body of Christ at dinner time, but the sense of belonging to something very important is there. The unity and the sharing as a family that comes with it always reminds me of what we share in Mass with other Catholics all over the world. Is it any wonder why the Thanksgiving meal is so loved? Friends and family from all over are invited to share in this gigantic feast where everyone is enjoying themselves, chatting, and catching up with each other. Yeah, the turkey is good, but the company and meal shared is better.
My favorite meal to have is Sunday breakfast. Very often we go out for breakfast after Mass to a diner close to the church. To me, it's a perfect extension of Holy Communion and what we have just shared. We see others also who have just come from Mass with the same idea, and the feeling of 'oneness', again with the One Body, is so very much present when we gather here for this meal.
Heaven is described as wedding feast and that just thrills me for I've always loved wedding receptions. You see people you haven't seen in ages. You reminisce with family members or friends that you grew up with who left for other destinations as adults, only to have years go by before seeing them again. A wedding reception is a family reunion. It was so apropos for our Lord to begin his ministry at the wedding in Cana and to make sure the wine kept flowing. The final wedding between Christ and His bride, the Church, will come at the end of time. I don't know if there will be any need for food or a shared meal after our resurrection, but seeing the importance of a meal throughout scripture, I suspect there might be, especially if heaven is described as a wedding feast. If there is to be a final wedding with Christ and His bride, then there has to be a reception afterward, for what is a wedding without a reception? That is one meal I do not want to miss. I've been practicing for this wedding feast all my life.
Happy and blessed New Year!