Many years ago, exhausted and worn out from the chaos of the self-sacrificing moment of wrangling all the kids to Mass, I stood on the steps outside the church after our celebration was over and chatted with another mom who compassionately looked upon me and saw exactly where I was – overwhelmed and tired. She also had a large family, but her youngest was the same age as my oldest, and, having “been there,” she shared some words of wisdom with me: “When you get overwhelmed with the moment, try to think about what Thanksgiving dinner will be like in twenty years when everyone is grown up and sitting around the table with you.”
Great advice. This changed my blurred, up-close vision to one which extended out onto a horizon that I could hope in. One day my table would be filled with grown up kids, maybe their spouses, perhaps grandchildren, together sharing a meal, giving thanks, counting blessings, holding actual conversations, telling funny stories, eating comforting food and sharing glasses of wine. This idea was a comfort to me when things got really messy in a house of many littles.
Now, I am just beginning to see these imagined moments come to fruition. With kids in college and high school, our holiday gatherings have definitely taken on a different vibe. I am closer to this idea than I ever was, though all is not exactly how I imagined it would be. My husband and the father of these five children died from cancer two years ago, and I grieve that he is not here to share these precious moments.
This terrible time of loss in my life has caused my vision to shift again, but this time toward eternity. Today’s readings create a new vantage point, far higher than the “Thanksgiving twenty years from now” idea. In particular, Isaiah 25:6-10 gives an eternal banquet scene to inspire us. One day we hope to be drawn into communion with God, to be richly fed and drink from his table, to be reunited with the dead, and with our faces cradled in the hands of the Father, who will tenderly wipe away our tears.
While my special family meals can offer an imperfect image of this reality of heaven, a more perfect sign of the heavenly banquet is the Sacrifice of the Mass, wherein we can receive the Lord himself in Holy Communion. While we hope in heaven, we cling to our source of heavenly refreshment here below – in the sacraments which bestow Christ’s life in us, strengthening us until that time when we are finally called to be with him forever.
Now, as we gather in my home to celebrate the poignant moments of burgeoning young adults coupled with the tension of grief, I savor the moments of togetherness around my table, and I cling more than ever to this vision of heaven. May we all be gathered together again on his holy mountain, and until then, let us gather at his altar to receive the life-giving sacramental banquet he has prepared for us.
*Anne is a widowed mother of five children living in Covington, Louisiana. Holding a music degree and a Masters in Liturgy, Anne has served as Music Director at St. Peter Parish in Covington since 2001 and now serves as Director of Parish Ministries there while she tends to her growing family as a single parent. Anne is a recovering triathlete and still enjoys swimming and cycling but has replaced running with long walks in the woods.