Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy offers a ‘Just Gospel’ blog post each month reflecting on Pope Francis Prayer Intention and includes any other specific focus of her religious community for the year. Find in this January article the Pope’s February Prayer Intention for parishes and the meaning of communion as we live in this time of Eucharistic Revival.
The shelves in stores abound with Valentines these days. Commercials try to convince us to buy jewelry, flowers and chocolates to express our love. Our prayer intention from Pope Francis also carries this same theme of love, but the love followers of Jesus are called to live. This month we pray: That parishes, placing communion at the center, may increasingly become communities of faith, fraternity and welcome towards those most in need.
The word communion leads us to think of community, of common life and common faith, of a life lived as one. Of course, as we live in this time of Revival of the Eucharist, we also tend to think of communion in its sacramental sense. They are not so different, these meanings. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is ideally and commonly a communal act. Just as most of us don’t particularly seek out the chance to eat alone, so the nature of the Eucharistic meal implies that we eat as the family of God gathered around His table. This also implies the love shared between family members.
There is an allegorical story that we’ve probably heard, but it bears repeating as we consider this month’s intention. It is entitled “The Allegory of the Spoons” and it reads as follows:
One day a man said to God, “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.” God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of vegetable stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water, but the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said, “You have seen Hell.” Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful vegetable stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The man said, “I don’t understand.” God smiled. It is simple, he said, love only requires one skill. These people learned early on to share and feed one another. While the greedy only think of themselves.
The way this story relates to our prayer seems clear. It is as Pope Francis desires. We need to become communities that treat one another as brothers and sisters, that welcome all that come and that are mindful of those who are needy. As we pray this prayer for ourselves as Community, we also need to pray for the same blessing for all parish communities.
We can also hear echoes of the allegory in a phrase from Thomas Aquinas’ prayer. Each morning we pray, “How holy this feast in which Christ is our food.” What is it that we are to share without exception? Who is it that we are to share? It is Christ the Lord whom we share. It is Christ who nourishes and enlivens the heart of all who come to the banquet table. In this we rejoice each day!