Pasta and Wine, that was the menu that advertised the Sunday-evening dinners of Ronda Giangreco, a wife, a journalist and a chef from Northern California. After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Ronda decided to take on an old hobby of hers, her love for cooking and gathering people, in order to deal with this threatening disease. An e-mail blast went out to her closest friends. Little by little the guest list grew from 8 to 160 to her weekly evening dinners. As treatment progressed and complications came about, her commitment to the Sunday Dinners was tested. One Sunday, after a bitter and unexpected visit to the ER, and with only four hours left, she was still able to pull it off. Dinner was served and her guests were taken care of. She was determined to cope with MS one week at a time. During her 52-week commitment of evening dinners, the table became more than just a meal for Ronda and for many of her guests. The simple act of serving a meal became a healing-balm not only as Ronda tried to adjust to living with MS but also for her guests who were dealing with losing homes due to the financial downturn, divorce, or other unfortunate situations.
In a very ordinary way Jesus also comes to his friends who have gone back home after the trauma of the Cross. As they did what they knew best, fishing, Jesus advises them and feeds them. The disciples would not dare ask him who he was for they knew it was he, Jesus, who had invited them to the table many times before. As described by John the Evangelist, in such a plain and yet elegant setting, Jesus serves loaves and fishes on the shore of Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) as another Eucharistic Meal. In this encounter, as it has been before, the disciples are invited to the table as they are, with their fears, doubts, hopes and labor. Here, they are met by a compassionate meal presented to them by their Rabbi. In this humble and familiar way Jesus turns the ordinary of their life situation into a life’s mission. No longer will they be catchers of fish, now they will catch people by doing what Jesus did, by announcing the Good News of the Coming of God’s Reign and by inviting others to the Table where their life will be transformed.
Since 400,000 Americans suffer the devastating effects of MS, Ronda Giangreco, just like the Disciples, has seen the ordinary of her life be transformed into a life’s mission. Ronda decided to share her experience of coping with MS in a book now titled "The Gathering Table: Defying Multiple Sclerosis With a Year of Pasta, Wine & Friends" and through her website (thegatheringtable.net). Her story is compelling and inspiring. She is hoping to travel around the Country to encourage those suffering with MS to find the healing power of "Coming to the Table".
As we continue to live in the splendor of Easter, we dare ask ourselves: How are we transformed by the table(s) that we share? How do we invite others to the table? Which table(s) have we overlooked or ignored in our ministry or in everyday life? Has the table become just a superfluous routine?
Hugo R. Esparza-Pérez, C.P. is member of Holy Cross Province currently working in Mexico.