Our granddaughters spent a few days with us last week. The highlights of their stay included dinner at Red Robin, Gurnee’s newest eatery. Ellie and Lauren smiled when we shared our plans with them as they enjoy their occasional visits to the same restaurant in Naperville where they live.
Though we ventured out on a Tuesday evening, the restaurant teemed with diners. During the five-minute wait for our table, an unexpected celebrity made his way in. This individual’s appearance transformed Ellie’s and Lauren’s good humor into pure ecstasy. Red Robin himself personally welcomed each of the girls with a handshake and a hug. These gestures set the tone for what became a thoroughly enjoyable meal together. When the hostess led us to our table, Ellie and Lauren scanned the restaurant to see where their new friend had gone. “Do you think he’ll come back?” Ellie asked. Grandpa Mike assured Ellie that Red Robin would return to our table to see if we liked our dinner. “If we eat it all up,” Grandpa added, “Red Robin will know that we like his food.” With that, Ellie and Lauren gave our server their dinner requests and then colored their placemats. It had become very important to them to be on their best behavior for “Red”.
Since our table sat just behind the hostess stand, we were able to see everyone who entered and left the restaurant. While Mike and I sat back to enjoy this time with the girls, several people from our parish happened by. Each group had something to share as they passed us. Ellie and Lauren are shy with people they don’t know. Still, when our friends moved on to their own tables, Ellie wanted to know everything about them. Most importantly, she asked, “Do they like Red Robin, too?”
I’m happy to report that the big red bird visited our table during dinner. Though Ellie and Lauren were too shy to talk to him, when Red Robin moved on, they giggled and waved enthusiastically. As I observed the circus at our own table, it occurred to me that the same scene repeated itself throughout the restaurant. Tables of families, teens, twenty-somethings, elderly couples, young couples and several in-between chatted and laughed as they enjoyed their meals. After basking in the tangible merriment for a few minutes, I turned to the my husband and announced, “This is it! This is Corpus Christi—the Body and Blood of Christ. This is what Jesus loved to do. No wonder he had a last supper!” I noted that Mike rolled his eyes as I rambled on, likely wondering where I could possibly be going with this. I know. You have good reason to wonder the same thing.
It seems to me that the activity Jesus most enjoyed during his life among us was sharing a meal with his friends. The best part of this is that Jesus counted anyone in close proximity among his friends unless that person chose otherwise. Jesus performed his first public miracle at a wedding reception. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. On one occasion, Jesus welcomed a woman of questionable reputation who interrupted his meal to bathe his feet with her tears. Jesus ate with whoever invited him in. Jesus sometimes invited himself in. Jesus called Zacchaeus down from a tree and asked the man to take him home for dinner. Jesus also cured Peter’s ailing mother-in-law and then enjoyed the meal she prepared. Of all the things Jesus did, his meals shared with those presumed to be “unclean” incited the scribes and Pharisees most. Still, Jesus persisted in coming to table to share a meal with those he’d been given to love.
If I’d written this article for children, I’d add that, when Red Robin roamed around his restaurant smiling, shaking hands and welcoming everyone he met, he did exactly what Jesus did. Since my readers tend to be a bit more mature, I add this: It was no accident that Jesus spent his last night sharing a meal. Jesus left his greatest gift –his own body and blood, his soul and divinity– in the sometimes incapable hands of the motley crew who’d become his best friends. Though they didn’t fully understand, Jesus passed the bread and the cup to each one of them. On this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we celebrate Jesus’ gift of himself to us. Unlike the poor disciples, we do understand. So it is that we show our appreciation by sitting at table, sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally, with EVERYONE we meet along the way.
©2011 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved