I had breakfast with my friend Joe the other day. Joe is a terrific guy whose enthusiasm and verve for life is contagious. In the midst of our time he quoted Tolkien from Lord of the Rings – "A star shines on the hour of our meeting." Those words have hung with me all week. It is a heartfelt expression of the joy of ‘being present’ with another. Joe’s right! Time well spent with a friend is valuable and light filled and it brings a sense of hope. It is illuminating.
Joe and I usually meet for breakfast or lunch, food is usually involved – no surprise to anyone who knows me. After communing together the other day I opened my email to find my daily reflection from Henri Nouwen. Here is what it had to say about breaking bread together. "When we gather around the table and break the bread together, we are transformed not only individually but also as community. We, people from different ages and races, with different backgrounds and histories, become one body. As Paul says: "As there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf" (1 Corinthians 10:17)."
In breaking bread together we are transformed…changed…made different…as a person and as a people. My meeting with Joe had me thinking about this idea that we can be transformed by the life of another. His use of the quote ‘A star shines on the hour of our meeting,’ had me thinking about the life changing possibilities when we allow another’s light to dawn on us. How different we all might be if we could be illumed by another. Joe’s words, Joe’s ideas, Joe’s theology and Joe’s life have instructed me and changed me because we have decided to break bread together. I think Joe would say that he has been influenced by my thoughts, ideas, theology etc. This happens not because we agree on everything, but because we are prepared to ‘be present’ with another.
The following day, my inbox held a emailed reflection from Nouwen which drove home the point that being changed, transformed or illumined requires taking action to be with another – it requires ‘crossing the street’ so to speak… "We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics. There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours."
If we could be honest about our fears I think we would admit that we all have a lot of roads to cross. When we cross them, I suggest some breaking bread together to that there might be opportunity for transformation. When we meet the other, I think God wills it that a star shines over that moment…can we see it?