The family meal has been on the endangered list for years. Millions of young people in our current generation haven't the faintest idea what sort of sharing and thoughtfulness, or patience and compassion, accompany the best meals eaten together.
Technology has done us no favor either. I've been at dinner tables where adults have been so engrossed in their Blackberry phones that I've wondered how the rest of us eating with them could be so dull in comparison with the news, e-mail or whatever is lighting up their faces.
A meal is more than a biological occurrence or a feeding station. Mealtime is an experience that helps us become more fully human. To gather around a table is to be open to the art of human companionship. It is to practice sociality and gain new understandings for how to sustain relationships.
When the disciples of Jesus faced a crowd of 5,000 hungry stomachs one day, their first impulse was to send the people away to find food for themselves and by themselves. The 12 intended an "every man and woman for him or herself" operation. Walk far enough and search long enough and you are bound to find some crumb in a cupboard. Or so they reasoned.
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