Most college students these days don’t eat together, especially if you live off-campus. Sure, you eat around each other, but when was the last time you were intentional about sharing a meal together with your roommates or friends?
My parents always used to make me and my two brothers, Josh and Nate, sit at the table when we ate. We always had to wait for everyone to get home before starting and we had to help prepare the meal and clean up afterwards.
I never wanted to do any of that. I wanted to watch TV (usually Teen Titans, or some classic SpongeBob), start my homework, wait for the food to be ready, and not clean up anything.
I didn’t understand why my parents always forced us to eat together; it didn’t seem like it mattered either way.
A Meal Does Matter
Here at UMD, we have an informal program called Alpha, where we invite our friends and roommates to a meal, which is followed by a presentation with discussion about life, God, and Jesus. I was a table host for this program, and it was during training that we learned why there is always a meal involved.
Sharing a meal breaks down walls, and it deepens relationships without any effort. There is a subconscious psychological effect when we come together over food that relaxes everyone and encourages conversation. You feel closer to the people at the table around you. It was after seeing this meal-sharing work at Alpha that I realized why my parents wanted me to eat with them at the dinner table.
Family Dinner: Explained
From what I experienced at Alpha, I know that my parents wanted to grow closer to me and my brothers when they called us to the dinner table. They wanted to foster our family relationship so nothing could tear us apart. I see now, as I look back on those days, that my parents wanted to cultivate their relationship with us because we spent all day at school while they spent all day at work. They missed us and wanted to show us how much they loved us by bringing us all together so that we could talk about how everything was going throughout our days.
And what did I do with their longing to know us and to spend precious time with us? I asked if I could be excused. I whined about it. I was reluctant to help and serve my parents (who brought me into this world) in any way. I was quick to leave. I was unappreciative. I didn’t even see what was in front of me at the table; my home, my parent’s, and my family together.
Then Jesus really opened my eyes.
The Most Important Meal
This is what Jesus did with his family – the twelve Apostles (the original boyband) – on the night of the Passover. The Passover meal was the most important meal in Jewish culture; it was where you got together with your family and helped each other to prepare for it. This was the meal that you shared to remember how much God loves us. Jesus takes this already important gathering, and ramps it up. Our God on earth came together around a table and said with love in his eyes, “Take and eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26) He instituted not only Himself on this earth forever in the Eucharist, but he called each and every one of us to the table to share this meal that was prepared specifically for us.
In the exact same way as with my family, God is calling you to share a meal with Him every Sunday at Mass. He is our Father, and he wants to grow closer to you. He wants to foster our relationship so nothing can tear us apart. We are separated from God, and we spend all our lives engrossed in school or work. God misses us! He wants to show us how much He loves us by bringing us all together so that we can receive His heart. He wants to talk about how everything is going throughout our lives. The Mass is the new Passover – the meal that not only reminds, but shows us God’s love for us.
How Do You Respond?
If you are like me when I was growing up, this significance of the Mass passed you by every Sunday. What do we do with His longing to know us and spend precious time with us? We ask if we could be excused from Mass. We whine about it. We are reluctant to help and serve the Father that not only brought us into this world by His grace, but created it out of nothing. We don’t pay attention during Mass. We are quick to leave. We are unappreciative. We don’t even see what’s in front of us at the altar; Jesus, our Father, our home, and our family (the Church) together.
Think about this the next time you go to Mass. This is the meal that God the Father has prepared His only Son to be the food for. The Lamb of God is our food, and we shall never be hungry again. The Precious Blood is our drink, and we shall never be thirsty again. He calls us to this meal to grow closer to us, because He knows that if we don’t, we’re dead right where we stand. Sometimes we forget this, but it’s so crucial to know that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6:53).
Changing How We Eat
Here’s what I think we should do: we should all invite our friends, our roommates, and our family together to do something so simple and yet so important – share a meal. Plan it out, set a date, and see what happens. Put away your phone and pay attention to those around you. See how much closer you can get from one meal.
If you only go out for a meal, that’s awesome, but there is something even better about being there to prepare the meal, to help serve those you love and care about, and to clean up and attend to your friends. Going back to the Passover meal, the entire household helped to prepare it. It shows how much you love those around you. You’re willing to take time out of our lives to serve them for a meal.
Knowing this, imagine how much love we show when we help out at Mass! Serving, reading, singing, helping prepare for the Mass and helping clean up after the Mass; it’s all as simple as helping with the dishes or passing the food, and it glorifies God in a way that nothing else can. See what you can do to help at Mass next time.
Go out and stuff your faces with your friends!