Making Room at the Table
Sunday, September 8
By Maureen Kennedy Barney, Ignatian Volunteer Corps Chicago
One of the most integral aspects of Jesus’ public ministry was that he welcomed all at the table. Sharing a meal together in Jesus’ culture held a unique weight; it reflected RESPECT, ACCEPTANCE and FULL INCLUSION. Jesus expected his disciples to promote a community that welcomes and honors all.
In last week’s reading from Luke’s Gospel of who Jesus wants us to welcome at our table we heard the message to ”invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and those with no ability to repay you.”
I serve as a member of the Jesuits’ Ignatian Volunteer Corps, a group of some 65 men and women, all seniors, dedicated to improving the lives of our fellow Chicagoans through ministries that serve the needs of those often marginalized by society.
For the past four years, I have been blessed to be at Old St. Pat’s with the members of the Trinity Volunteer Corps, people with disabilities volunteering together, providing each person with an outlet to express their unique talents and gifts. Inclusion through volunteerism guides TVC. Gathered together at our table, the mailroom table on the third floor of the Jack Wall Mission Center, our tasks are many and varied.
Preparing the cutouts you’ll take from the Giving Tree, assembling Valentine Cheer bags for shut-ins, sharing liturgy at the Special Friends Mass, assisting at all of the Ronald Mc Donald Houses to serve a meal for those on a journey with a seriously ill child, bringing the light at the Easter Vigil, working at the Block Party, or welcoming all to Deck the Halls, we gather together in a spirit of inclusion and companionship as we are JOY to each other on our journey.
Perhaps our greatest efforts consist in our preparation of weekly food bags that OSP provides for the homeless: a bottle of water, a package of crackers and cheese, raisins, canned sausages, and a protein bar… some hundred people a week find their daily nourishment in the food bags. As we walked together one Wednesday to the noon Mass, we passed a young man holding a very small child. Seated on the curb which was their table, they were sharing their lunch… the bag they had just received from Old St. Pat’s. We stopped and spoke with the pair.
As we moved on to church, one of my buddies said quite simply what God wants from all of us:
TO SEE HIM IN ALL WHO CROSS OUR PATHS AND TO WELCOME HIM… TO LIVE THE BEATITUDES.
God meets us wherever we are… caring for each of us and also challenging us to prepare to welcome HIM… for it is Jesus who is in those he sends into our lives, those who cross our paths. Witnessing that with each person who is part of the Trinity Volunteer Corps allows me to understand the message of HOPE… and HOPE is the door that opens onto a future where all are welcome at the table! Jesus tells us:
“Here I am knocking at the door. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door I will enter his house and have supper with him and he with me.”
Worshiping together each month, next Sunday will be our first Special Friends Mass. Gathered on the first floor of the FXW School, our Mass celebrates our uniqueness and provides a liturgy that is prepared and celebrated in a way to include everyone in a smaller gathering. Just as Jesus welcomed everyone at the table, something unique in his time, so we continue the tradition at Old St. Pat’s. Please join us!
Special Friends Masses are intended for members of our faith community with diverse abilities who may struggle to attend a traditional Mass. There is no judgment. It is a place of welcome, encouragement, and triumph where Christ’s presence feels palpable among us and from where we help to bring Christ into the world.
We will gather at 12:30 pm in the FXW School Cafeteria.
Mass will START at 12:45 pm.
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