(Featured Photo: “Last Supper in Gaza” by Vivek Vilasini)
I was recently reading Catholic Biblical Quarterly and came across a journal article that was about what Paul meant when he used the term ‘The Lord’s Supper’ in 1 Cor 11:20 (I know… thrilling stuff). The intention of the article was to determine whether Paul meant Eucharist/Communion when he used the term – spoiler alert: he didn’t – but didn’t traverse the wild territories of what Paul could’ve meant other than it was a separate Christian communal meal. Ooohkay.. but that didn’t really tell me anything about it I couldn’t surmise for myself. So, of course I began thinking and of course my peace and justice brain just snagged on to something I thought I’d share with you all.
I’m always asking myself what Jesus is trying to teach us in these interactions with the people on the margins, and how are we – as people of faith – supposed to respond when we find ourselves in the same situations.
The more that I read this piece, and the more that I think about it the more I’m coming to the conclusion that Paul was making a qualitative remark by using a metaphor. I wonder if the dinner table is being used as a metaphor for society as a whole – the way we behave at the dinner table as a microcosm for how we behave in the greater world (which puts me in mind of the movie Look Who’s Coming to Dinner).
The author wrote something about how the Corinths used to behave at these communal dinners with the affluent being shown preference with the better food and drink and more of it while those on the lower rungs of the social ladder got lesser quantity and it was probably bottom of the barrel quality. Perhaps the same way we often feed our dogs when they beg at the table?
I think when Paul uses the term “The Lord’s Supper” he’s saying that this was not how Jesus shared a meal with others. To begin with there were no people of affluence at Jesus’ meals, rather he brought the poor, the marginalized, criminals, widows, and those suffering from physical ailments (blind, lame, lepers, etc). Next, whether you were rich (destitution is not the only indication of marginalization) or poor, male or female, married or widowed, etc – everyone ate the same at Jesus’ table. Everyone was given the same opportunity to eat the amount of food they wanted/need – and the quality of the food, though simple, was the same for all of those at the table. In word: At Jesus’ table (the Lord’s Supper) there were no social distinctions – we were all brothers and sisters of equal worth and value to him. I consider this an act of restorative justice – of feeding the poor with food, company and compassion that they so desperately need.
I think Paul is, in a way, calling people to task for their failure to emulate “the Lord’s supper” – that they are distinguishing people by social class, and therefore not really acting in a Christian manner. So, if we’re behaving that way at the dinner table, imagine how those folks are acting out in the streets? It’s no different, I’d assume.
What are your guys’ thoughts?