Sunday, July 10, 2005

Family Dinner

Once there was a happy family with many children. Their father, being a good father, saw to it that three good meals were provided for his many children every day. He worked hard to provide money for groceries so that his wife could cook up tasty and nourishing meals for his children's growth. He placed great emphasis on these meals, for he said "The family that eats together stays together".

His children enjoyed the meals (especially the desserts). They loved to sit at the table and see their many brothers and sisters, and listen to their stories and jokes. Their parents insisted on some rules at the table (no chewing with your mouth open, no talking out of turn, and don't touch dessert until Mommy does), but they weren't so strict as to forbid chocolate covered faces and outbursts of laughter.

One day, however, the oldest child, a strong-willed daughter of 12, did not appear at the breakfast table. "Perhaps she is feeling ill this morning", her father thought. Neither did she show up at all for lunch. When dinner time arrived, and the little girl was not at her table, Dad withheld the opening blessing and passing of the food to go and find her. She was in her bedroom, with the lights off, sitting and looking at the wall.

"My beloved daughter, what is wrong?"

"Oh, nothing Papa, I was just beginning my dinner with you all."

"What do you mean? We have waited to start dinner until you should arrive. Why have you skipped our meals together today?"

"Well, Papa," she explained, "you see I have come to understand what you want us to learn about one another: why it is so important that we eat together. I know that it's not the food in itself that is our nourishment, but our spiritual communion, in our hearts, that really nourishes us. You want us to come together to eat so that we can learn how to feast on each other, and on you, and find the real nourishment that our hearts need. So that's what I was doing. I was sitting up here, meditating, thinking about you and how you provide for everything I need, and how much I love Mommy and my brothers and sisters. It's been so much better than sitting at the table and being distracted by the babies crying and little Peter making snort noises when he laughs. I even got up extra early today so that I could feast with everyone before they got up."

Her father said nothing, but bent her over his knee and gave her a hearty spanking, until she apologized for being such a disobedient and foolhardy daughter. Then she came down to the dinner table and ate twice her portion, being very hungry.

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