Today's Gospel records the consoling words Jesus shares with the women, men and children at his last Seder meal, a meal we re-enact here at Mass every Sunday of the calendar year. At this meal Jesus prays for his people to be one in mind & heart; at this meal Jesus delivers on his promise to become our Food and Drink. At this meal we come to share our story. We come to break the Bread. We come to know our rising from the dead! Without this Bread we starve spiritually.
During the Depression years in the 1930s, dad had a dairy farm near Stevens Point. The farm was close to the railroad, and I remember the piercing, mournful sound of train whistles in the night and the clickety-clack of freight cars passing by on the old railroad tracks. I remember too that we used to get strangers at our door from time to time looking for food and drink. I didn't find out till later that these people were called hobos. Hobos used to ride empty freight trains across the country to look for work. Dad told us that hobos were smart; they would mark fence posts of farmhouses where they had been welcomed with food and water. Other hobos riding the rails could then spot these markings, jump off the train and walk to the house to ask for help. Our farmhouse was obviously a favorite of theirs.
We understand we need food and drink to grow physically : it's a law of nature! Our faith tells us that we also need special Food and Drink to grow spiritually. "Unless you eat this Bread and drink this Cup, you cannot have life in you," Jesus tells us. What is this Food and Drink we need so desperately? It is Jesus himself, faith declares, in this Bread, in this Wine. Where do we get this Bread and Wine? Here in this church, at this Table! And who is welcome to the Table? Everyone! Because here we're all hobos, fellow travelers, always greeted warmly by our host, by Jesus himself. Everyone is welcome because eating at this Table isn't a reward for saints; it is nourishment for us sinners as we travel our journey from birth through death to rebirth.
Like the hobos of yesteryear who were denied food and drink and were chased away from some houses because they smelled bad, wore ragged clothes and spoke poorly; so today some of us are denied a place at this Communion Table because we don't vote correctly in the eyes of some bishops, because we marry for love without going through a shameful and disruptive annulment process, because we envision a more compassionate church, because we won't stay in the little box of "pray, pay and obey" that church authorities demand. How sad! Such judgments by church leaders go directly against the compassion of Jesus who at this same meal 2000 years ago prayed that we be united as he and Abba God are united! We are not united because of law; we are united because of love!
Today we welcome four young children to our Table. These children are ready and eager for Communion! Do you ever wonder why in the Gospels children are so eager to approach Jesus? Personally, I think it's because Jesus smiles a lot. Children aren't drawn to someone grumpy, gruff, stressed out. Children are drawn to an one who smiles easily, listens readily and laughs a lot. And I know exactly why Jesus is drawn to children. It's because he loves you to pieces; and He has a special love for the four of you, and a special love for the child in each of us. So, welcome today to our Communion Table, Chelsey, Nicholas, Yasmine, Dakota. And understand that you have an open invitation to this Table each and every time we celebrate this Awesome Banquet!