Growing up, Sunday was always about church and family. After church, we’d head to my grandparents’ house for Sunday dinner. Sunday dinners were an all-day affair, with aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered together for food and fun. At the time, I didn’t know we were carrying on a long-held tradition that stemmed from Judaism and the time of Jesus.
The Shabbat (Sabbath in English), today referred to as the Lord’s Day or Sunday, is the perfect time to stretch out and relax after a busy week and enjoy a meal with family and friends. Many of us continue to break bread, drink wine, and share a meal just as Jesus did with his friends and followers.
There are many examples of Jesus sitting at table in the Gospel. One such occurrence was in Luke 14:1 when Jesus “On a Sabbath… went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.” At this particular dinner, those in attendance questioned Jesus on many of his practices like working on the Sabbath (which was a no-no for Jews at the time) and taking places of honor at the banquet table (or in this case, the Pharisee’s table). (Luke 14:2-7) Though these subjects may have felt “touchy” to Jesus, Jesus did not shy away from the conversation. Instead, he used it as a teaching moment for those around Him. How do we deal with these kinds of topics and conversations when we are gathered around the table with our family and friends? Do we take the opportunity to listen to each other, hear each other’s perspective, and learn from each other? Or are we more concerned with “keeping the peace” than we are about accepting each other’s points of view?
Aside from good conversation, gathering around the dinner table is a time for prayer and thanksgiving. Jesus always said a blessing before He broke bread. That’s what devout Jews did. Jesus carried on this tradition to impress upon us how important it is to be grateful for what we have. Do you say grace with your family? Do you spend time together at least once a week praising God for the blessings He has bestowed on you and your family?
I have such fond memories of gathering with my relatives on Sundays, with all of us contributing to the making of and cleaning up after our dinners. We had so much fun together. It wasn’t that we did anything special; it was just fun being together, laughing and playing, relaxing and enjoying the moment. In amongst the fun were some of those tough conversations at the dinner table, where we challenged each other’s’ way of thinking; yet we still left the dinner table with love and affection for each other – even when we agreed to disagree.
I have to confess, that trying to continue this family tradition with my own children has been a huge challenge for me – especially as my children have aged. Sports, homework, and even Religious Ed ate into our Sunday dinners and made it a struggle. At one point, Sundays became so difficult to maneuver, that we changed to Friday night family dinners. I have to say, that despite its challenges, my children came to treasure these times like I did – even when it meant that as teenagers they were with family instead of friends on a Friday night.
Now that my children are grown and living in other states, weekly family dinners are not possible. Still, when we are together, sharing a meal with friends and family is important to all of us. I think Jesus gathered his followers around the table to show us that everyday life is a celebration and a time to be joyful. He taught us that the most precious gift we have to give each other is spending time with one another. Sharing a meal together is a powerful reminder of the love and comradery we share. It is a gift we give to each other every time we gather ‘round the table.
Deb Egan grew up in a Catholic family. Throughout her adult life, she has participated as a church volunteer in many capacities, including teaching Religious Education, being a Eucharistic Minister and Lector, Ministering to the elderly and homebound, and Facilitating Small Faith Groups. She has been trained by Evangelical Catholic and became a member of the Build the Faith Team in April of 2017.