Friday of the Third Week of Easter
Joel and I have a table grace that we say at meals when we have guests. It's the table grace we sang at our wedding: "Be present at our table, Lord - be here and everywhere adored. These people bless and grant that we may feast in paradise with thee. Around this table may the Lord be ever and always adored - the weary find a welcome rest and all who suffer want be blest." We love bringing this small reminder of our wedding to our family practices of hospitality. We are reminded often that the practice of hospitality is part of our vocation as Christians.
Of course it is the case that we encounter this hospitality best when we eat food. Sharing food with people, and sharing the conversations and manners that come with it, are ways of being present to people. Very little else quite does the same thing. Sharing food, even with strangers, makes us strangers no longer in some kind of way.
This was a disturbing picture for many. In the verses that follow this passage some say, “This saying is hard, who can accept it?” Some apparently leave behind Jesus because eating flesh and drinking blood smacks too much of cannibalism. In fact, many Roman and Jewish authorities found the earliest Christians to be repulsive precisely because they DID say they eat Jesus’ body and blood.
This charge of cannibalism - the food of Jesus - might well be a major reason why Saul (who would later be renamed Paul) is repulsed by the Christians and seeks to destroy them. At the beginning of today’s reading from Acts (9:1-20), Saul is a man on a mission to search out and destroy Christians wherever he finds them.
Even today, there are people who are repulsed by Christianity. Yet there are people who encounter God's radical hospitality to us - his hospitality to us in sending us his Son Jesus. Saul/Paul experienced that hospitality in his own life, eventually, and converted to Christianity himself - a big surprise to those who knew him as a persecutor.
Today's scriptures call us to remain in Jesus and offer one way to do that: in our meals. May we remember God's own radical hospitality to us and be reminded of it in the Eucharist and also in all our daily meals.
- Jana M. Bennett