By Brea Cannon
Over Thanksgiving weekend, my husband and I were blessed to welcome my family to our home for a Sunday Thanksgiving dinner. It was a special time; our dining room table was trimmed with both pumpkin decorations and a set of Advent candles made by our children. It was great to have all of us around a table together for a meal; to celebrate and give thanks for all of the blessings of another year; and to also bring in the first Sunday of Advent as a family.
By the time my family left that Sunday night, I was overcome with so much gratitude for the love shared around the table and throughout the day with card games, football and the sounds of cousins playing together.
I have been praying a lot since Thanksgiving for families and individuals who are experiencing the holidays by themselves – and for families enjoying the holidays without someone for the first time. As I was praying and thinking about my own family smooshed together around one table, memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas came to my mind. Both holidays, at my grandparents’ house, were full of family – and most of the time, family friends or in-laws sitting at the table, too. It was always so special to have extras with our family during that time. It added to the festivities and made unique memories every year.
As a child, I did not realize most of the guests who joined our family were there because they may not have had anywhere else to be – or they were not able to go home for the holidays due to work or other commitments. It is heartwarming to think that so much love was shared sitting around a table and sharing a meal together as one big family during those holidays.
With the experiences I had during the holidays as a child, I have come to understand and appreciate the importance of a gathering at the kitchen table as friends and family. It is there that the world's problems are solved, and hearts and relationships are formed and shaped.
During this season of Advent and the approaching Christmas holiday, I imagine many homes will have families and friends gathered around a table to share and experience a little bit of life over a homecooked meal. As important as the kitchen table is to the holidays, there is actually one other table that serves as an even greater gathering space – the table of Our Lord and the sacrifice that takes place at every Mass. Each Mass gathers a family around a table to share in the source and the summit of our lives – the Eucharist.
For centuries, families have gathered together to share in the Lord’s Supper. What takes place at the altar during the Mass is all we need to live out our lives as the church faithful and be given the grace needed to enter into eternity as saints.
As we continue through Advent and finish preparing for the arrival of the Christ Child at Christmas, I invite you and your family to think about inviting someone to the table – to Mass. Whether it is someone you know who has been away from the Catholic Church or someone who has never been to church, invite them and walk with them through their experience at Mass. There is no greater gift you could give someone than to introduce and lead him or her to Jesus. If you will, take it a step further, invite him or her to Mass and then to coffee or a light brunch at your kitchen table afterwards. It is there you can share your life and love of Jesus with another – you can pour a cup of coffee and together read the Nativity story in Luke’s Gospel. The invitation to Mass is the greatest gift you can give to someone this Christmas.
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
Brea Cannon is an Evansville diocese native and member of St. Peter Parish in Montgomery with her husband, three children and extended family.