By Amanda Cleary Eastep
As I looked around our family table at Thanksgiving, I imagined Jesus sitting there. Probably at the head of the table. . .and after dessert, in Dad’s chair, because my father would so give up the microfiber recliner for his savior.
We would have offered Jesus one of the drumsticks (before my young nephews claimed them). I think Jesus would have kindly complimented me on the turkey but would have avoided using the word “moist”, knowing it would instigate a secret drinking game between my sons that involved downing a beer every time the trigger word was innocently employed by well-meaning guests.
He would have laughed at our usual sharing of favorite memories while breaking bread with grandma and grandpa, siblings and cousins, agnostics and adulterers, doubters and drinkers of wine. We would have temporarily been on our best behavior; at least until his presence made it impossible for us to keep up any facade and instead accept his grace after simply saying it before dinner.
Grace tells me Jesus was at the too-wide table my parents got so they can squeeze as many people in as possible…the grace he offers and the grace my son said while we clasped hands and invited Jesus in. I hope he stayed after dinner despite our attention to the Bears game (they were WINNING), our inability to fight tryptophan comas, and our failure to recognize our abundance, which the following day we referred to as “leftovers.”
It’s easy to imagine him there, because Jesus regularly did “ordinary” things like having dinner with loved ones and resting from his labor.
Today concludes what is known on the liturgical calendar as the 34th week of Ordinary Time, a stretch of days in between seasons like Lent and Easter and Advent, which begins tomorrow. (Thank you to my pastor for explaining this since I don’t pay attention to church-y calendars.)
Ordinary Time is actually the “largest season of the liturgical year.”
Ordinary time is pretty much everyone’s largest season. Day after day lived between births and deaths and weddings and holidays.
That isn’t to say the ordinary is without meaning.
The term ordinary, or “ordinal”, according to my Catholic sources, refers to a time that takes us through the life of Christ. Like us, Jesus had his big moments–birth, baptism, suffering and death–and his in-between days were spent serving others through his miracles, but also escaping the crowds to rest (Mark 3:31) and gathering with his friends to eat and drink.
He even got in a little trouble for all that “gathering.”
33 They asked him, “John’s disciples are well-known for keeping fasts and saying prayers. Also the Pharisees. But you seem to spend most of your time at parties. Why?”
34-35 Jesus said, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but this isn’t the time. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. When the groom is gone, the fasting can begin. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!” Luke 5:33-35 The Message
I imagine Jesus at lots of other Thanksgiving tables, too. Maybe the ones with sparse meals and strife. Or the ones where people don’t believe he’s the person to thank, yet he still waits patiently to be included because he loves them anyway.
Ordinary Time counts down to Advent, the season leading up to Christmas. Similarly, our ordinary days count down to the day Jesus comes again, and, if we invite him, takes a seat at the table for real.
That will be a different kind of Thanksgiving. A doing away with the boundaries of calendars and religion, a celebration that extends far beyond the perimeters of tables and traditions, and anything but ordinary.