Posted by: mmreflections | May 11, 2010

A Banquet of Blessings: May, 2010

“When the Feast of Unleavened Bread arrived, the day for sacrificing the Passover lamb, Jesus sent out Peter and John, instructing them, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’…..  When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles.  He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’  The he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying. ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.'”  (Confer Luke 22:7-20)

Years ago I was greatly surprised to be invited by a young father in our parish to attend my first Christian Seder Service at their home.  Passover is the oldest and most important religious festival in Judaism, commemorating God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and God’s creation of the Israelite people.  The focal point of Passover is a communal meal, called the Seder which means “order” because of the fixed order of service, which is a time of rejoicing, celebration and blessings.  Unlike most Holy days of Christianity that are observed in Church, since the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70, Passover has been celebrated in the home with family and friends as they eat a meal together. 

It is customary to invite guests to share the Seder meal, especially newcomers to the community. The actual Seder meal is a feast characterized by prayer and gratitude for all God has done for us, blessings for those present, sharing of bread and wine along with all the other foods, games for children and time for stories of how God has blessed each of the participants.  The Seder is most often personalized by the host family and not a rigid ritual.  While the father is customarily the leader of the service, the mother lights the candles signaling the beginning of the celebration and others share readings of a spiritual nature.  On this particular night I was deeply touched by what followed the sharing of bread and wine.  The young father called each of his children by name, beginning with the oldest, and blessing them by telling them how proud he was of them and of the joy they brought him.  He called to mind something special each had done the prior week to bring joy to their family.  He finished the blessings by turning to his wife, expressing his love for her and thanking her for all she had done for him and their children.  I recall sitting there with tears rolling down my cheeks as this young father turned to me and thanked me for being with them and for my priestly service to them and our parish.

With this family moving to another city as well as my being transferred to another parish, I eventually lost track of them.  Recently at the parish where I now volunteer my services, I was surprised to be greeted by a distinguished  white haired gentleman at the completion of the Sunday Divine Liturgy.  He approached me with a twinkle in his eyes and a slight smile. He was in town for some business matters and found our parish.  I did not recognize him but after a brief moment I realized this was the young father who had invited me to my first family Christian Seder service many years ago.  He shared with me the stories of his children, how they had all grown up and how proud he was of the  way their lives were unfolding.  One was serving with the military in Iraq, others had gone into the medical field, one was a teacher.  His children were a great blessing for him and his wife which helped them to struggle through the difficult and sad times which life had bestowed upon them in the midst of their joys and blessings.

In the news this week there have been a number of sad stories of young people (as well as older ones) who have gotten themselves into serious troubles.  Some of them came from very wealthy families while others have had successful careers and incredible opportunities.  I remember coming across a very thought provoking article some time ago.  A young man, fresh out of college, had gotten into trouble and ended up in jail once again.  When his father was informed of what had happened, he went to the city jail to bail out his son again.  Furious with his son about the shame he brought upon their family, he went on to bagger him with all  he had done for him.  He bought him his beautiful sports car for graduation, he gave him all  the money he ever needed, he covered up for him again and again.  When he finally stopped yelling at his son, the young man quietly replied, “All I ever wanted was for you to be a father to me.  That was the one thing you never gave me.  You never had time for me since I was a little boy.  You never said anything kind to me.  You gave me lots of things but never gave me your love.”

I wonder  how many of our children are struggling with many issues because they have never received the blessings they needed from their parents.  Conceiving and bringing a child into the world is for most people an easy matter but being a good father and mother is much more challenging.  We live in stressful times which have taken their toll on family life.  It is in these particularly difficult times that children need to be blessed, encouraged and given some degree of stability.  With both fathers and mothers working away from home, it is of great importance to examine family situations to consider if our families are contributing to a better world.

When I was teaching public school near New York City in the 50’s, I had a talented student, named Kenneth, in my class.  He was the only son of very wealthy parents who worked in the City, a bright student but not living up to his potential.  On my way home from school I would often see him on the streets with some rough characters when I knew he ought to have been at home.  In those days I walked to and from the school since I did not own a car.  He would  often stop me and chat, trying to get my attention but never revealing what was on his mind.  His grades were plummeting and were reflected in the report cards we sent home in those days.  One day his irate mother came to the school furious about the grades I was giving her son, not hesitating to berate me, clearly making her case that her son deserved better grades.  When she quieted down and gave me some space in which to speak, I emphatically agreed with her 100% but also made clear he was not doing his best.  She went on to tell me her son came directly home from school, did his homework, practiced his music lessons, etc.   I asked her if someone was there to be certain he was doing these things.  She revealed that both she and her husband worked late hours in the city and he was left alone but she trusted him.  When I told her of my seeing him on the streets after school, she was stunned.  To make a long story short, she decided to quit her job and become a full time mother.  The end of the story was that Kenneth became one of my best students, his parents were most grateful for what they learned, and I was invited to their home frequently for my first taste of lamb chops.  Years later when I was serving in the army, I received a special envelope from one of the schools where Kenneth was now studying.  He had won a major essay contest in which he described the story about the teacher who had made the most lasting mark upon his life to that point.

Blessing are so easy to give!  A kind word to someone, a word of affirmation, especially to our children, may have a most lasting effect upon their lives.

 When the supper was ended, Jesus tied a towel around his waist, he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples and dry them with the towel around his waist.  When he had finished, he said to them, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do for one another.”  (Confer John:13:4-15)

 

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Responses

  1. I loved this much needed message – perfect timing for all our “new parents”. Had difficulty posting this comment. Wish this could go into a newspaper editorial!


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