This week I have been working with 30 students and one of my colleagues on an Urban Plunge program. We have structured this program a couple different ways over the last three years of offering it, but this year we changed it once again to make it even more intentionally about encounter instead of service. This week we didn’t “serve” in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, each night this week, we brought food to a community in the Dallas area that was new to most of the students and shared in a meal with its members. The boys brought games, flowers, prizes, and most importantly, they brought themselves to each place.
Of all the times we have done this program, this year there were so many more special moments of community, fellowship, and friendship that tangibly left my heart full each night as I drove home. I teased the boys as they left each day that they needed to go home and tell their moms about the experiences because, as a mom myself, I knew I would want my sons to do the same. But I found myself going home and sharing with my husband some of the profound moments of encounter I had witnessed as well. These 30 young men made such beautiful connections with others, and most of these connections happened quite unexpectedly for them. They dined and spoke with people who had experienced homelessness, people living with HIV, people in the later years of their lives who had lived through the Great Depression and before the advent of our 21st century technology, and young families experiencing economic challenges. And at the end of each encounter, they, to a man, remarked that in those moments of fellowship and food… all of that faded away. It was people encountering people, sharing in a banquet of love and friendship.
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. We celebrate the precious gift of Jesus in the bread and the wine that, in the Catholic Tradition, we believe becomes His body and His blood. Every mass, every moment of consecration, we believe that Jesus returns to us, fully present in the Body we eat and the Blood we drink. This is what we celebrate this Sunday… but note that we also celebrate the form in which Jesus chose to share Himself with his apostles and, in turn, with us.
He chose to share Himself in the form of a meal. He chose to leave this gift for us so that we might gather together, at first in homes and later in churches and cathedrals throughout the world, to share in a common meal. This meal meant to unite us in the presence of the Lord and inspire our hearts towards the path of love.
This week, I experienced that same encounter with the Lord in the presence of these young men and the new friends they met and the food they shared. Each threshold we crossed, we were reminded that the Lord moves through all of us in special and unique ways. And if we are willing to cross thresholds and enter into communities that look different than our own, if we are willing to break bread with others and truly encounter them as they are, the Lord will be there too.