The Table

If you are a practicing Catholic you have most likely heard some form of this running joke:  “That priest is talking too long, I need to get to the donuts.”  Most every parish these days has a coffee hour where people gather after Mass.  At my parish that time together is so popular that even on days when a coffee hour is not scheduled, people gather and hang out in the narthex anyway.  When summer approaches in most cities, the block parties begin and the round of fests commences.  June is graduation party/wedding season.  Every week-end is crammed with people gathering in large or small groups.  During the rest of the year there are those “group holidays” Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays.

We have an unmistakable urge to “gather”.   What is it that so draws us together even when it is predictable that Uncle Frank will the first one to spark the family feud over something that happened in 1987! We gather. We even make up excuses to gather.  What is that anyway? As we go through life there are many forces that push and pull upon us.  It’s called “growing up” when we have mastered the recognition of the negative ones and have been able to multiply the positive ones.

Even at that, though, there are some forces that exist within us that are at best recognizable and at worst unexplainable.  Things like love, hate, jealousy, judgement and envy.  Often it’s one or more of these energies that move us to gather.  We want to share our negative and positives with someone, anyone.  In the journey of life the greatest fear that many people have is to be alone.  But then there is the “table”.  If we look at this urge that is planted in us, in an unexplainable way, we might actually find out that the drive to be together around the table is surprisingly sacramental and has nothing to do with which religion you do or don’t practice.

Because we are created by the will of God there are some things that are indelibly within us by virtue of that nature.  Things like an innate knowledge that killing another is wrong or the feeling of pity when you witness suffering.  Coming to the table (gathering) is one of those inherent things.

Without getting too theological we need to remember that in much of religious parlance we usually speak about or refer to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the teaching and dogma of the Church we are constantly reminded that God is not a singular authority hurling lightning bolts at Earth. Rather he is a family where love flows from person to person of the Trinity and back again, constantly multiplying. Many passages of scripture remind us that as humans we have been fully adopted into that family with no reservations.(Jn 1:12, Rm 8:15, 9:26, Ep 1:5, Gal 3:26, I Jn 3:1 NAB)

It is more than natural, then, to desire to be with each other, to come together.  An even firmer confirmation of this idea is revealed to us if we look at Jesus’ time on earth.  His first and last acts were at table, gathering with his earthly family, Cana and the Last Supper. Even after the resurrection, the event that changed all of history, he chooses to gather. Unbelievably enough, it’s to cook breakfast for his guys!  Before he departed permanently he left us with strict instructions to gather and celebrate: “do this in remembrance of me.” (Lk 22:19)

When we gather we pause and take time to be present with each other. When we sit at table together we look into each other’s’ faces and meet eye to eye.   In that act is a curative that is not possible in any other circumstance. That action of engaging eye to eye is an opportunity of hospitality, healing and acceptance, if only for a moment.  God is stirring us, calling up the echo in our soul of what is to be our future.  In the echo we hear the truth of God’s endless hospitality, the banquet that never ends. We feel the pull of that place where there is always a seat for us no matter what we have done. Somewhere in our soul we sense, in faith and hope, the welcome that never ends and heals all.  We long to get there.  In our human way, we gather as often as we can in response to the echo.  In truth that’s really a Holy Act and a taste of what conviction has planted in us; the endless acceptance and celebration from a loving God who so desires just to be with us.  Nothing more, nothing less. Stunning!


Copyright© 2016, Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn holds a Master’s in Education from Saint Xavier University. Most recently she completed Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from The Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. This recent degree was part of a “retirement project” after teaching for 35 years. She has also worked as a spiritual director, music minister,council member and prayer team warrior. Kathryn has a deep interest in catechesis for the people in the pews. As a “sort of” convert she finds the wisdom of the Church a source for encouragement, joy and survival in a world not sure of anything. Her writing has appeared in diocesan publications and on-line sites, most recently for Zenit. To learn more about Kathryn check out her thinking at:">

Leave a Reply

next post: Visibly Anonymous

previous post: Catholics CAN learn from Scientific Faith