April 15: A Feast of Welcome (Easter 3 B)

“The disciples recognized the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread, alleluia.” Luke 24:35

Once again, we celebrate Easter joy in the light of the Good News, a moment when our lives are picked up by the gladness of Christ’s resurrection and new life.

We read of an encounter with the Lord – when his disciples recognize him in the breaking of the bread, that meeting continues to have profound meaning for us at every Eucharistic.

Psalm 34 is a favorite of mine, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord, and blessed are those who take refuge in him; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.”

“Taste and see,” perhaps the word “savor” is an apt word, namely to find pleasure in bread and wine that touch our souls.

Last week, 8,000 people came to Monterey for the Pebble Beach Food & Wine show. To my mind, there are pleasures to be discovered in excellent foods, choice wines that genuinely touch the soul.

You may also find pleasures in high art or music, perhaps in sports. These may give a glimpse of the “good life” and help to savor the wholesome expression of our humanity as well as soothe our souls and shield us from the destructive, violent, and sometimes sinful aspects of human nature.

“So taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” all so much around us during this Easter season.

Let me call out some Easter Joy, first with remarks about a film; and second, a Hallelujah chorus of praise!

The 1987 film “Babette’s Feast,” is a Danish movie, directed by Gabriel Axel, and based on a novella by Isak Dinesen.

A recent obituary in the New York Times announced the death of the French actress Stephane Audron. She was almost unknown to American audiences but then gained popularity because of her the role of Babette in this Academy-award winning film.

The film still maintains a huge following, and Pope Francis says that “Babette’s Feast” is among his most favorite movies.

Babette is a Parisian who moves to a rural and bleak village in Denmark, and goes into service as a housekeeper and cook for two-spinster sisters.

These women never married, much the result of their father’s misgivings; he was the town’s minister who led an austere life and imposed this way of life on to his daughters.

Years later, their father died. Theirs was a humorless life, few friends, with no pleasures nor passions.

Enter Babette, who takes an interest in them and their lives – so much, so she has a profound influence on them and the whole village.

Like a bolt out of the blue (and here’s where the story turns), Babette wins the lottery and is awarded a modest sum of money. Instead of spending the money on herself, or thinking of moving away or living a more comfortable life, she decides to reward her friends and give a feast for the two sisters and the neighbors.

Exotic foods from Paris were shipped in, to the marvel of everyone, and the backstory emerges about Babette’s prior life in Paris, where she had been an accomplished chef. Her culinary creations were masterpieces, delicious, and life-changing.

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” and Babette’s food in that sense was soothing to the soul.

For viewers of this film, here was the cinematic equivalent of a Eucharist or a communion whereby this food satisfied the most profound personal hunger for belonging and companionship. Babette had changed these people’s lives.

When the movie opened in New York City, the intense interest in the realization of the “food on film” resulted in one French restaurant re-creating a special menu for its patrons based on the film — from the Turtle soup as the starter to desserts.

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” is to share this joy of ours as we grow in appetite for the nourishing “bread of life.”

These Easter pleasures can be found in food and wine, but also in music, art, and sports.

This past week, I had an Easter experience – that still resonates with me. I’ll call it a Hallelujah chorus of praise!

On Thursday afternoon, I was in Toronto at Salt+Light Productions, working on my current media project, “Sunday to Sunday.”

As our meetings concluded for the day, I was escorted to a waiting taxi, and thanks to my hosts, they suggested that instead of going back to my hotel, I might consider going to see the newly renovated Saint Michael’s Cathedral in downtown.

Fifteen minutes later, I was at the Bond Street location. The historic church had undergone millions of dollars of repair. It is directly across from the Saint Michael’s Choir School for Boys, one of the few scholarship programs of music education for boys.

I walked into the gothic building, having seen it only two years ago, and eager to see how they had managed the reconstruction. The stained glass and golden statue of Saint Michael on the main altar glowed — as they sun-flooded light into the church.

Much to my fantastic pleasure, the scene also included the sight and sounds of a two hundred voice boys/men’s choir, soloists, and symphony orchestra in final rehearsal for Handel’s Messiah — which they were to perform on Saturday (last evening).

What a delight! I was one of ten persons in the church – hearing these voices who had worked on the Spring Concert for the past three months.

Those young boys dressed their school uniform sung with such force and verve to fill the cathedral and touch my soul – a Hallelujah chorus of praise! An Easter moment for me when all the conflicting issues of life take a back seat to a loving God — who has saved us in his Son, by bringing new life to be unexpected and often unforeseen moments.

So “taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” this Easter!

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.







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