3rd Sunday of Easter
Family Meals -- Data
There have been some recent, interesting studies that show the importance of family meals, of families eating together.
The American Psychological Association has published a report of research done over a fifty-year period. These studies, taken together, indicate that there is great value to family meals, especially dinner.
For example, one study finds that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or try marijuana or drugs as teens. These family dinners are also linked with teens having a good sense of self, good academic achievement, and good family relationships.
Girls who ate three or four family meals a week are at significant less risk for eating disorders. There also seems to be a link between family meals and a lower incidence of depression.
The ritual or routine of family meals tends to give shape and meaning especially to the children. And by the way, the studies show that these benefits apply to the traditional family of mother, father and children, and also to single parent, divorced, and blended families.
Family Meals -- Value
A family meal can be very simple – chicken, chili, hamburgers, pizza, whatever.
The important point is that a family dinner or another meal can be a powerful ritual or routine. It gives children times and days that they can count on.
It assures them that there is a place where they belong and that you value being with them. And it is a moment for conveying important values, maybe by just talking about what happened during the day.
I recommend that we begin the family meal with a prayer. It can be the standard Catholic Grace before Meals or each person thanking God for something that happened that day.
On one level, this prayer marks the transition from busyness to mealtime. And beyond that, it opens your family to God and God’s presence.
Now this may be a big challenge with today’s busy and stressful lives. But I recommend that each family work at this and pick a minimum of three days a week for a family meal, especially dinner.
The Eucharistic Meal
I also want to say that Jesus left us a family meal that we call the Eucharist.
In today’s gospel Jesus celebrates this spiritual meal with two of his disciples. This meal gives us Jesus in the form of bread and wine.
The ritual or routine of this meal gives us a place to count on for belonging, to each other and to God. It gives us a way, Jesus’ way, to live by and live for.
Vey important, this meal gives shape and meaning to our lives. It does this over time, in a steady, consistent, incremental way.
The Eucharist fortifies us for dealing with both the ups and the downs of life. It gives us a framework for understanding and living the whole journey of life.
And like a family dinner, everything doesn’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to be perfect to be here and to receive the Eucharist.
In fact, Jesus gives it to us because we are human and not perfect. So I recommend that we make the time and space to share this meal once a week.
I recommend that we make this meal a priority along with our family meals. It is important and it will make a difference in us as persons and in the way we live our lives.