How wonderful it was for me to have the opportunity to preach several weeks ago at my mother's home parish of St. Gertrude's Catholic Church in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania. This Church remains a very special place in our family as it was the Church in which my mother and father were married, my aunts and uncles were buried and my sister, Marifrances was married.
One my first night in town, the Pastor, Father Chad and I went to visit some of my distant relatives and good family friends. We were scheduled just to "stop by", but with Italians, I don't believe there is such a thing! From the moment we arrived the table was set; the wine was poured and the Pasta was boiling!
The conversation, the story telling, the tears and laughter and yes, the "Italian guilt" was all too prevalent. But was more noticeable than anything else, was the fact that I couldn't recall a time when I had taken OUT the time, to do what I was presently doing: sitting, eating, relaxing, listening and conversing. I realized that in a very subtle way, that this was a form of Eucharist; of Communion, not in a Sacramental way but of a kindred way.
On the last night in Vandergrift, I repeated what happened that very first night of my visit, I gathered with a close friend of my mothers, one of whom went from Kindergarten through twelve grade with her. In fact, this friend shared of his deep admiration of my mother, who always allowed him to ride her bike, since she was one of the few who had a bike in the nearby neighborhood.
Our time together was filled with good food, homemade wine and stories that kept the evening fresh and fun. Though the food was endless, I was barely able to eat as my mind, soul and body seemed to be filled to the brim with much to ponder, reflect and cherish.
How often we attend our Church, approach the altar and receive Eucharist as if it was a McDonald's drive thru. How often we go through the motions of only hoping that Church will not be elongated by a lengthy sermon or a "added" rite. We have lost the understanding, the true meaning of why we gather and do what we do. We have become such an instantaneous society, that in turn, we expect our God to be instantaneous with us and to adhere to OUR ways instead of HIS ways.
I have learned that over the years many people lose trust and faith in God precisely because many people do not KNOW GOD. All of us seem to hold God to expectations of which God has never promised. God never promised us everything we wanted. No, instead, God has promised us everything we have needed.
In the next days, we will enter the most Holy of Holy Days; the Holy Triduum and the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. For my Jewish Brothers and Sisters, tomorrow (Wednesday) begins Passover.
In just a few days, we Christians will have the opportunity to once again gather as a community and be nourished at the Table of the Lord. May we have the openness to realize that WE NEED to be present and to allow all of our questions to be answered. It is Jesus that is the answer to every question. All of us, with myself included, have many anxieties, fears, doubts, dreams, longings, sins, anger, hurts, sufferings and beyond. Let us stop, take notice and recognize that the table of the Lord is set and we must be prepared to welcome the Lord into our lives in a new and powerful way.
And all of these thoughts occurred simply by sharing a meal with family, friends and loved ones.