Father Richard understands Jesus’ eating habits as a model for the kind of “open table” fellowship we might practice as Christians:
God’s major problem in liberating humanity has become apparent to me as I consider the undying recurrence of hatred of the other, century after century, in culture after culture and religion after religion.
Can you think of an era or nation or culture that did not oppose otherness? I doubt there has ever been such a sustained group. There have been enlightened individuals, thank God, but seldom established groups—not even in churches, I’m sorry to say. The Christian Eucharist was supposed to model equality and inclusivity, but we turned the Holy Meal into an exclusionary game, a religiously sanctioned declaration and division into groups of the worthy and the unworthy—as if we were worthy!
Before Christianity developed the relatively safe ritual meal we call the Eucharist, Jesus’ most consistent social action was eating in new ways and with new people, encountering those who were oppressed or excluded from the system. It seems Jesus didn’t please anybody by breaking rules to make a bigger table. Notice how his contemporaries accused Jesus: one side criticized him for eating with tax collectors and sinners (see Matthew 9:10–11). The other side judged him for eating too much (Luke 7:34) or dining with the Pharisees and lawyers (Luke 7:36–50; 11:37–54; 14:1). Jesus ate with all sides. He ate with lepers (Mark 14:3), he received a woman with a poor reputation at a men’s dinner (Luke 7:36–39), and he even invited himself to a “sinner’s” house (Luke 19:1–10). How do we not see that?
It seems we ordinary humans must have our other! It appears we don’t know who we are except by opposition and exclusion. “Where can my negative energy go?” is the enduring human question; it must be exported somewhere. Sadly, it never occurs to us that we are the negative energy, which then sees and also creates that negative energy in others. The ego refuses to see this in itself. Seeing takes foundational conversion from the egoic self and most have not undergone that transformation. We can only give away the goodness (or the sadness) that we ourselves have experienced and become.
Eucharist is meant to identify us in a positive, inclusionary way, but we are not yet well-practiced at this. We honestly do not know how to do unity. Many today want to make the Holy Meal into a “prize for the perfect,” as Pope Francis observed.  Most Christians still do not know how to receive a positive identity from God—that they belong and are loved by their very nature! The Eucharistic meal is meant to be a microcosmic event, summarizing at one table what is true in the whole macrocosm: we are one, we are equal in dignity, we all eat of the same divine food, and Jesus still and always “eats with sinners,” just as he did when on Earth.
 Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), 47.
Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1996), 81.
Explore Further. . .
Image Credit: Brian McLaren, Untitled 10-12 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.
The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to Brian McLaren as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. His photos are featured here in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image Inspiration:The two outside photos in this triptych can appear spare, bare, or apart. The photo in the middle brings together a collection of unique items supported by the table. What happens when we are intentional about connection, or together-ing, rather than other-ing?
Story from Our Community:
With the current conditions of our political climate, I found myself put off by many of the conversations, posts and polarization on social media. Therefore, I found Father Richard Rohr’s daily meditation on Jesus’ teaching to “love your enemies” especially poignant. . . I practiced intentionally sending love from my heart to one or two specific others in which I disagreed. I felt the tension in my own body as I did this. It was not easy, as I also felt a wave of my own fear come up to be released. The struggle of this practice reminds me that real love is not an idea, but an anchor point within myself that I have to access, return to regularly and rest. It helps remove the “log in my own eye” so to speak and heal the relationship with the other.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.