Food practices serve as both the symbolization and theo-logic of God’s ‘unnatural,’ affiliative relationships with humankind. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry is a feast at which Jesus transforms scarcity into abundance for the purpose of celebrating and enjoying new relationships among people previously unrelated to one another. The end of Jesus’ ministry is another banquet at which he will once more drink of the vine that he refuses to sip in anticipation of that day, a banquet of reunion, restoration, and new beginnings. Central events of Jesus’ life and ministry involve setting the table for a casual, outdoor banquet (feeding the five thousand men and unnumbered men, women, and others), telling stories of banquets—planning them, declining or accepting invitations to them, attending them and socializing at them, eating and talking at them, behaving in scandalizing and indecent ways at banquets, and so on. The shape of Christian existence is celebration of the presence of Christ at a banquet. The promise of Christian existence is that banquets without borders express the victorious truth of human existence. Equally, the shape of Christian conflict is over who gets to participate in that celebration and under what conditions. (Linn Marie Tonstad, God and Difference, 238–39)
I love this passage from the book of one of my teachers, Linn Tonstad. In it, she points out how food and everything Jesus does with food is symbolic of how God relates to us in ways that far exceed anything we can ask or imagine: the turning of water into wine at the wedding at Cana, the feeding of the five thousand(+, as she reminds us), the great wedding banquet promised at Christ’s return in glory, and the last supper he had with his friends before he died. Maundy Thursday is the beginning of the Paschal Triduum, the great extended service that will begin this evening and conclude with the Great Vigil and First Mass of Easter on Saturday. In it, we commemorate Christ’s institution of the Eucharist, our Lord’s last supper, which he commands us to continue to celebrate in remembrance of him. In this feast, we meet and commune with our Lord in the flesh, as it were; we enter spiritually into the mysterious sacrifice and offering which God was working out in and through the events of his betrayal, suffering, and death; and we partake ahead of time of that great ‘banquet without borders’ that will be the life of the world to come. Taste and see. Our Lord is very good.
Let us pray: Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Bless: Who do you know has been left out of something recently? You probably don’t have time to have them over this week, but make a plan today to invite them to dinner sometime during the season of Easter. “Banquets without borders express the victorious truth of human existence.”