A Feast on Jesus' Meals
[This article first appeared in Praying 62 (Sept-Oct 1994):44]
"Dining in the Kingdom of God: The Origins of the Eucharist According to Luke" by Eugene LaVerdiere: "Liturgy Training Publications"
Among the beloved titles of Jesus (Messiah, Son of God, Word Made Flesh, Emmanuel), one doesn't expect to find Gourmand. Yet trace the meals reported in the gospels and Jesus the epicure, the gastronome, verily even the bon vivant, surfaces. Never one to turn down a free meal, Jesus uses the table as a classroom for his teachings, a counseling room for his advice, and an altar for his self offering.
Eugene LaVerdiere, who has enlightened and inspired us about the gospels on many occasions and in diverse media, slices once again into Luke, this time to serve up a survey of his meals. Jesus seats himself at table ten times in Luke's gospel. How many can you name without peeking? LaVerdiere invites us to dine with him each time, chapter by savory chapter in "Dining in the Kingdom of God". The title derives from Luke 14:15, where Jesus, at table, has explained that the poor, the crippled, lame, and blind should be invited to dinners. Another guest acclaims, "Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God".
All will be welcome to eat there, and all are welcome to read about it here. The book will appeal to those with some background in scripture, but even if you are unfamiliar with how to use Bible commentaries, or fearful of their typically immense size, ponderous language, cryptic footnotes, and foreign phrases, you will probably find this commentary safe harbor. LaVerdiere writes clearly without talking down to the reader. He writes with wisdom and faith.
This is no restaurant guide to first century Israel, nor a sporadic series of passages loosely bound by the food theme. Quite the contrary, the author presents his belief that the Last Supper is not an isolated event in the life of Christ, but a meal intricately connected to all the others. Each time Jesus dines, LaVerdiere argues, he comments on the Eucharist, and in the Eucharist, he fulfills his ministry.
Along the way, we learn about the different dining styles of gospel days, and the wider context of the story into which each meal fits. "Dining in the Kingdom of God" makes good scriptural scholarship accessible to the do-it-yourself student of the Bible. If you love the Eucharist, seek to know Luke better, and dare to sit at table with the Bread of Life who nurtures only to send you forth, this feast awaits.