Thursday, March 27, 2008

This Eucharist Business: How do We Understand this Meal?

My God-daughter Delaney Melissa is making her first communion next weekend. Tomorrow is her birthday. She is on my mind.

Reading today's scriptures* - I am thinking about where Delaney is at in her own understanding of the Eucharist. I think about where any of us are at for that matter. Whether we are Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Atheist, I wonder:
How do we make sense of our meals? How do we understand our shared breaking of bread, drinking of wine?
(If you drink wine. If you break bread. You get my drift!)

I approach so much of my faith and church's rituals and traditions from an outsiders point of view, and often ask,
"Why do we do this? What's the point? How does this make sense? How does this help me or anyone in the community live their life? Does it make a difference?"
My friend Michael Benham, from the Church of St. Phillip's, shares the mentorship of three beloved boys with me from time to time. Treyvon, Jimmie and Shador are their names. I love them. I taught their older brother, Pierre, at North High about five years ago. Michael often accuses me of talking about concepts with the boys that are above their heads. ("How do guys understand the 'The Trinity? What do you make of the relationship between Father, Son, Holy Spirit?" were one set of questions Benham challenged me on posing to the boys. He makes me laugh.)

I think children are much smarter than we give them credit for. I think all of us are smarter than we give ourselves credit for!

(Photo courtesy of Michael Benham)


I was sitting with a group of the boys' friends at the back of mass one sunday, and saw them marveling at Treyvon (then 12) up on the alter, serving. I asked if they knew what was going on, why they ring the bells at certain points. Jimmie (10) said,
"It makes me think of doorbells, and like "someone's here!"" and another friend responded, "It's like "pay attention to this part!"

I laughed.

Then I asked them if they knew what was happening with the bread and wine and the priest. I told them, "This is what Jesus did with his friends the last night he was alive."

Another boy said, "It's like we all need to feed ourselves and be ready for whatever is coming next! Like, 'we could die tomorrow, we better be ready!' "

I don't know if adults think this much about the Eucharist, but I know this conversation really rocked me. And it makes me crave such an exchange with my goddaughter.

It makes me crave such exchanges with all people who participate in the Eucharist. It makes me hungry for dialogue about what we are doing at dinner parties. What we are doing at lunch time. Shoot! What are we even doing in our happy hours!?

This is what I think about. This is what I laugh about. This is how I pray, I guess, and I work to live up to this privilege of being anyone's "Godmother." I invite all of us, no matter what our faith tradition, to consider what happens when we dine together or alone. What is at work in our bodies, in our spirits?

How do simple meals feed us? What does any of this have to do with Jesus and his friends? What happens if we consciously consider this? What happens if we don't?

How connected are Delaney Melissa, Treyvon, Jimmie and Shador to each other? To you and me?
(Shador Praying. Photo courtesy of Michael Benham)

Happy Contemplating!

Lk 24:35-48

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”


Julia Dinsmore said...

BRAVO! For me....the most meaningful and beautiful of your electronic ministry offerings to date.
Thank you.

Bless you dear!

Julia Dinsmore, Mpls. MN.
"My Name Is Child Of God...Not Those People--A 1st Person Look At Poverty (in America)"
available at

Sr. Rafael Tilton said...

Dear Melissa,

When Jesus said we need to accept the word like little children, He had this in mind. Think back to stories you have heard (or your own experience0 and you will know that kids mirror what they see. They like to go back home and "play priest." aren't we all in the business of self-giving? of having our offerings accepted and changed into the bread of life? Isn't there some kind of a [bad] reason why some of the disciples thought it was a "hard saying" to hear Jesus say, "Unless you eat . . .you shall not have life within you?" They walked with him no longer," John's gospel says. Isn't there a [good] reason why the Emmaus disciples recognized him "in the breaking of the bread"?
We have lots to learn, all of us, but I hope we don't change into grown-ups over it all.

Love and peace and all good
Sr. Rafael

Jim Smith said...

Great reflection, Melissa. Keep writing your thoughts, and with these
theological reflections, keep sending my way.

I love that you ask good, honest, direct questions, and don't necessarily try to answer them all for us.