April 19, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
April 19, 2015
Fr. George Smiga
This is a very special day for all of you here who will be making your first communion at this liturgy. I know that after this liturgy some of you will have a family dinner or party, and your parents and grandparents will probably bring some of your favorite foods to eat. We all have favorite foods, right? Things we like to eat. When I was your age one of my favorite foods was red cake. (Now it had another name that we can’t use in church.) But red cake was a two-layer cake that was bright red and covered all over with white fluffy icing. My sister Margie and I loved red cake. We would eat it every day. But my mom only made it on special occasions. So once when we were planning to celebrate my dad’s birthday with a family dinner, my mom asked my dad, “What do you want to eat for your birthday?” He looked at Margie and at me and he said, “Red Cake!” “Hooray!” we said. And it was determined that is what we would eat.
My mom made the cake the day before the dinner, and it came out beautiful. My mom is a great cook. Every couple hours I would walk into the kitchen just to look at the cake, and to smell it, and to imagine how wonderful it would be when I ate it. When it came time for the dinner, my mom began to prepare the meal, and I came into the kitchen to smell the red cake. It was wonderful. But as I smelled the red cake, I smelled something else. And my heart stopped. I forgot that my dad not only loves red cake, he also loved lima beans.
Now, do you have some foods that you hate? I hate lima beans! To me, they are little packets of stinky mush. I said to my mom, “Why are you making lima beans, I hate lima beans!” She said, “They’re your dad’s favorite. And I don’t want any trouble from you tonight. You will have to clean your plate.” So, you see my problem. I wanted to eat the red cake, but I didn’t want to eat the lima beans. So I came up with two plans and I hoped that one of them would work.
When time came for dinner, the red cake was displayed on the counter. My mother brought to the table meat, potatoes – and a large steaming bowl of lima beans. After the prayer, my dad took a big spoon of the lime beans, put them on his plate, and put a few in his mouth. “Mmmmm!” he said. “They’re like candy! Wonderful!” I gagged. So I took the serving spoon and I put one lima bean on my plate. My mother just looked at me. So I took the serving spoon and I put a second lima bean on my plate. She shook her head. She took the serving spoon and she put thirty lima beans on my plate. And she did the same for my sister Margie, who also hated lima beans. She said, “Look kids, you have to eat your vegetables, and today they’re lima beans. So clean your plates. No lima beans! No red cake!”
My first plan had failed so I tried the second. I figured that although I had to put lima beans into my mouth, I didn’t have to swallow them. So during the meal I packed behind my cheeks all but two or three of the lima beans that were on my plate. And then I said, “Excuse me; I have to go to the bathroom.” I got up, and went to the bathroom, and spit out the lima beans. Then I waited an appropriate amount of time, and flushed the toilet. Success!
I came back to the table and sat down smiling. Then I noticed that my sister Margie was also smiling. That was not good. So I looked around, and I saw it: her plate was clean and my plate was filled with lima beans! And then she said, “Mom that was a great dinner. I can’t wait for dessert.” I lost it. “It’s not fair!” I said. “Margie put her lima beans on my plate!” “Hmmm!” my mother said, “If those are Margie’s lima beans on your plate, where are your lima beans?” I said nothing. “And what were you doing in the bathroom?” I said more nothing. “Here’s the way I see it,” my mother said, “Your dad works hard to earn money to buy food, and I prepare it, and you spit it out. To your room!”
So I went to my room, and I sat there alone and listened as Margie and my mom and dad finished the meal, cleared the table, and then served the cake—the cake that I would never taste. It seemed to me that I sat in my room for a very long time. But then there was a knock at the door and my dad came in. “George,” he said, “we’re having dessert and I think you should join us.” “But Dad,” I said, “I didn’t eat my lima beans.” “I did,” said my dad, “and they were delicious.” “But Dad, I tried to trick you, and that’s the same as lying.” “I know,” said my dad, “and I’m not happy about that. But you are my son and I want you at the table.” Then we went out together and we each had two pieces of red cake.
Now I tell this story on your first communion day, because I think the words my dad said to me are very close to the words that Jesus is saying to you. “I love you. And I want you at my table.” In the gospel today when Jesus meets the apostles after the resurrection, he says, “Do you have anything here to eat?” He wants to share with his apostles food, as a sign of his love. Jesus wants to share with all of you who are making your first communion today the bread and wine of the Eucharist, his body and blood, as a sign of his love. We don’t always do things well. We fall short. We are not always the people we need to be. But Jesus always wants us to be at his table. This applies not only to those making their first communion here today, but to all of us here. Wherever you are coming from, whatever has happened, know that Jesus wants you at the table. Let these children today who make their first communion, remind us how deeply God loves us and how Jesus always wants us at his table.