Notice During the Covid-19 Outbreak
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A SEAT AT THE TABLE
A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
I was thinking about food, drink, and friendship. So much of life centers around eating together as we cope with and celebrate the ups and downs of life. I come from a family where every issue of life centered around the table. If someone died, we ate the comfort food of embracing their memory. If someone was born, we greeted their arrival with the fine wine of love and the sparkling waters of hope. If someone was sad, we broke bread with them as we tasted the salt of their tears. Like the table and chairs, the food and drink were all signs and symbols of welcome, family, friendship, care, and radical openness. As a little boy, I would climb into an empty chair at the table, remembering the laughter, the welcome, and the heart-break. There was nothing like a loaf of memory to nourish the sacred moments of life.
I remember the splendor of breaking the fast in the Mosque. As we gathered together, I felt welcomed, loved, and cherished. On the wall, there was a poster. Its simple words touched my heart and continue to change my life. Imam Ali said, “People are of two types: they are either your sisters and brothers in faith or your equals in humanity.” I was so touched by these words, my friends at the Mosque gave me the poster. I savor those words each and every day.
I also remember an extraordinary time when some friends and I were invited to the Gurdwara, the Sanctuary of the Sikh Community. I felt at home as I gazed upon the Guru Granth Sahib, the living Word. Lost in thought, I was startled when a very kind person shared the Sacred Food (Karah Parshad) with us. We were reminded of the equality of all people. None of us would leave this Holy Placed empty handed. What a lovely gesture of profound friendship and respect. I felt honored and uplifted. As one spiritual master said, “Nothing is more important than another human person in your presence.”
Our hearts are tables meant to be set for the welcoming and honoring of everyone we meet. Our bodies must become like bread and our souls like wine. Never should we miss the opportunity to share the feast of ourselves with others. We must resist the idea that the bread of ourselves is exclusive. Bread nourishes all people in the same way. The tables of our hearts must be open to all before the temptation to deny, exclude, and harm destroys all life as we know it. Our World cries out for generosity born of gratitude.
The time has come to review our religious rites and rituals. We must ask ourselves if our religious practices are welcoming, loving, respectful, and kind. Bread is broken to remind us of the broken who come to the table to be healed with the miracle of friendship and compassion. Our Sacred Gathering Places must reflect the openness of our hearts to all peoples so peace might be a reality rather than a dream.
Every time I see a table, I think of all the people who welcome other people no matter what the circumstances of life. Imagine what our World would be if we set the tables of our hearts with welcome, love, kindness, and generosity?
Thank you, Holy Community, for all the times you shared the bread of your heart and sweet drink of your soul with another person. In your welcoming of them, the Universe rejoiced as all of us were blessed.