When Jesus said to me at Easter Vigil, “Welcome to the Table of the Lord,” he wasn’t kidding.
Let’s just say that in heaven, dinnertime is a big deal. Everybody – and I mean everybody – is there.
I don’t quite know how I get there. Maybe I wake up from a nap and someone carries me in while I’m still groggy. That would explain how I end up in a high chair at the corner of the table with my Daddy on my right and Jesus – affectionately nicknamed Brother, it seems, which he appears to like – on my left. There are women sitting across from us at the table, three or four of them, and they laugh and talk and get my attention. They like to make me smile. “She’s adorable,” one of them says, a blond lady. “How old is she now? Ten, eleven…?”
“Eleven,” says my Mother, whose name I’ve learned is Mary. She prefers Mama. I think as long as I call her something that starts with an M sound she likes it. She sits on the other side of Daddy tonight, but keeps a close eye on me.
And the women coo about how little I am. “She’s been eating so well, too.”
“She’s always hungry,” my Daddy says and smiles at me. This makes me squeal with laughter.
My Brother puts food in front of me. Bread. I pinch off little pieces and apparently make quite a show out of eating it, like I don’t quite know where my mouth is yet. A humbling experience. But it’s so yummy. “You could eat bread all day,” he says.
“And gets quite upset when she doesn’t have it for a day.” I notice somebody a few chairs down from the three women, someone with dark brown hair, shoulder length, not curly until it reaches the ends, with a tan complexion and a kind face. Do I know him? He seems familiar. There are people across from and next to him who keep him engaged in conversation, but every now and then he looks at me and smiles as if he knows something I don’t. Brother appears to know him well. “Not sure if you’ve noticed that.”
His neighbor elbows him. His hair is a little more gray, but not into old age. “Think about who you’re talking to.”
“Figure of speech,” he says. His friend rolls his eyes and shakes his head a little.
Jesus laughs. “She grows fast, she needs it.”
Who’s that? I think, looking at Brother. I don’t have to talk; I just have to think in his direction. Looking is unnecessary, but I do it anyway, I guess to make sure I have his attention.
He responds likewise. One of the twelve, he tells me. I get the impression the other eleven are nearby. Eleven? There are innumerable people down each side of this enormously long dinner table. They’re all talking, laughing, sounding serious, clinking silverware on plates. I can look down the table and somehow I can pick out the twelve from the others, but how I know who’s who is a mystery. They cluster together in small groups, though. Not all the talk is theology, though – in fact, that’s the minority of conversation. History and the day’s events dominate what I hear.
Who? I ask. This time he doesn’t answer, but just smiles a little. He scoops something onto my plate and uses my little spoon to cut it up into smaller pieces. Ravioli. I wasn’t aware I liked ravioli in my past life. Maybe the cheese-filled kind. No matter what you eat here, though, it’s yummy. I reach for some of Daddy’s bread while his Son is busy, and Daddy laughs and feeds me a bite. “A little impatient, aren’t you?” he says.
“No, just hungry,” the three women say at the same time, then laugh at their synchronicity. While Daddy feeds me another piece of his bread, Jesus notices my sippy cup (purple, of course) is empty and reaches for it. I don’t know what he does with it, but when I look back, it’s full, and I make a big mess with ravioli on my hands.
“No food in your hair,” Mary admonishes. I get my hands everywhere when I eat. Brother pulls my hair back – I have long hair – while I eat. “And chew it well. Little….” I put a rather large chunk of pasta in my mouth. “Bites,” Mama says, sounding a little defeated.
My Father laughs. I reach up to push a stray piece of hair out of my face. Tomato sauce on my forehead. Mary looks at my Father. “You bathe her,” she says.
“Now wait a minute,” he says. He looks to his Son, who raises an eyebrow. I look at him. He looks at me like he isn’t really sure what he’s supposed to do now. His face looks so funny! I have to laugh, and this precipitates excited movement that I can’t really control in this amazingly joyful atmosphere. Mary laughs. The three women stop and watch, enraptured. Brother ends up with tomato sauce on his face.
I freeze. Everyone else laughs now. Brother wipes it off his face and is holding back his laughter and a smile. “Oh, how I love you,” he says, wiping my face and hands clean.
“Resistance is futile,” says one of the familiar faces from down the table on the opposite side.
“Not where I’m from,” Jesus says with a straight face and feeds me the rest of my dinner with a little spoon. It’s yellow.
He has my full attention, and he knows it. He loves it. So do I. I hear my Father talking, but I don’t understand the words. I’ve found his Son’s face, and I could look at him forever.
Everybody notices this, but nobody says anything. They all sit and watch. Some grow quiet. A sense of joy takes over the room in the growing silence.
To them, this is very important to behold.
The next thing I remember is sitting on his lap – wow, I really am tiny – and he gives me my sippy cup. “You need to finish this, little one,” he tells me, and I plop back into his chest and pretty much nurse it. It isn’t water. This is something darker, with a different taste to it. A little sweet, like juice. I don’t ask questions. I look across the table to the unknown apostle again, who smiles knowingly. Mary is watching me intently, and she looks like she’s trying to figure something out. She looks up to my Father, and they speak without speaking. I’m not privy to their conversation.
I must be tired. People come to look at me where Jesus has me resting on his shoulder later. I’m just barely awake. When they leave and he talks to me, the sound of his voice is enough to soothe me to sleep.