The word supper often evokes images of Jesus breaking bread with the Apostles (especially when you put the word “last” in front of it), but today I’d like to reframe “supper” in a new context.
A few days ago the mother of a teen at my parish invited me to have dinner with their family. Being a single young man from a big family, I miss shared mealtime, so I accepted. When Wednesday evening came, I was exhausted from a long workday, but I went anyway.
It was wonderful.
Something really special happens over food. That’s why God gave us Himself in the Eucharist. Jesus was a smart guy. He knew when people gather around the table, our physical hunger isn’t the only thing being satisfied. Breaking bread (or pot roast in this case) touches the core of what it means to be human. It spans cultures and generations. Over a meal, we share conversation, share stories, share laughter, and ultimately, we share a part of ourselves.
The mother had a slight motivation for inviting me. She wanted to ask about my spirituality. The conversation gave me a great insight into the life of her teen and other families in our parish. Our night finished with the whole family (all five kids were home, including their talkative four-year-old) gathering before their statue of Jesus to pray. They prayed in thanksgiving for the day, for their children to follow a vocational calling, for me to be guided by the Holy Spirit in youth ministry, and for the intercession of the Blessed Mother. How glorious is that?
What would I have missed had I not had that dinner? A snapshot of my teen’s family life; great wisdom and reflection on the ministry to which I have been called; inspiration from a faithful family that graciously shared in their abundance of love (even though they are not a family with an abundance of financial resources) – just to name a few. It recast sharing supper in a beautifully sacred way.
How can we extend the Sunday Eucharist into other parts of the week we share with teens? Perhaps it’s going to a teen’s drama performance or sporting event, then going out with their family to pizza afterward. If you have a family, bring yours too. Or perhaps it’s sitting down with a teen for coffee or ice cream on a weekday afternoon. Perhaps it is braving high school cafeterias at lunchtime with licorice tubs in hand. For bakers, send some homemade goodies and a letter to teens away at college. There are a myriad of possibilities to mix food and ministry in effective, life-giving ways.
When we begin to see the possibilities of “supper” expanding, we see our young people in a new way. Young people are hungry. What are we feeding them?