The joy of mealtimes
by Sian Ap Dewi
Coming together with family and friends to share nutritious and delicious food has been an enjoyable feature of my life, for which I am truly grateful.
It was whilst sitting with my grandparents, parents and sisters around a functional oak table that I quickly learnt the importance of dividing the fruit pie equally into 8 portions for the maintenance of domestic harmony.
At that kitchen table I also learnt to appreciate the wonder of good story telling.
I saw and heard hard-working people after long days spent in factories, hospitals and coalmines turn the material of their everyday lives into stories reflecting their gratitude, hopes and dreams.
No topics were off-limits and the food provided the back-drop and reason to be together.
The meal provided sustenance to us both physically and emotionally as we shared some of the events of our day.
Family members were also able to gauge what was going on in each other’s lives, and more importantly gain a sense of when a person might be facing particular challenges.
As I accompany people at St Beuno’s I’ve begun to notice how many times as part of a gospel contemplation I encourage retreatants to enjoy a meal with Jesus.
There are meals spent with Jesus in the company of tax collectors and sinners.
They might also be asked to visit the home of Jesus’ friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus and watch the responses of that particular family to the presence and absence of Jesus.
Sometimes retreatants enjoy sitting on the hillside and share in a bread and fish picnic brought by a child willing to share a packed lunch.
Others wander to a shore where the resurrected Jesus is cooking fish for breakfast.
In each situation the retreatant is encouraged to imagine the conversations and listen attentively to what Jesus might be saying to them.
These mealtimes spent with Jesus are relaxed places where stories are told, and complex truths about death and resurrection are explained.
They are also safe places where modern disciples can bring and express their own questions, frustrations, fears and doubts.
They speak out their truth and are often consoled and comforted by a sense of being heard by God.
I am humbled regularly as I listen to those who have encountered Jesus describe a fresh sense of the presence of God with them.
Our God is a God of abundance regularly exceeding all our expectations. He provides basketfuls of bread to eat with plenty to spare, and I am regularly encouraged by the fact that He still delights in encountering us in all things, including mealtimes both real and imagined.