For Everyone Born, a Place at the Table

In church on Sundays, I often find myself reflecting on the power of song. As a reader and a writer, words hold the most weight for me; I am most drawn to songs whose lyrics are rich in meaning. That being said, though I couldn’t tell you anything about the musical composition of a piece, I appreciate the the way that music magnifies the impact of the lyrics, making the song entirely more moving when sung and played than when read. The church I attend at home has lovely if old-fashioned lyrics, but the quality of the singing (no musical accompaniment) is lacking. Mass here at the university, however, is alive with beautiful, resonant music, the kind that fills you up from your bouncing toes to your vibrating lips, your whole body leaning into the music, one with the community.

Last Sunday, we sang this song:

For everyone born, a place at the table,

for everyone born, clean water and bread,

a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,

for everyone born, a star overhead,

and God will delight when we are creators

of justice and joy, compassion and peace:

yes, God will delight when we are creators

of justice, justice and joy!

For woman and man, a place at the table,

revising the roles, deciding the share,

with wisdom and grace, dividing the power,

for woman and man, a system that’s fair,

and God will delight when we are creators

of justice and joy, compassion and peace:

yes, God will delight when we are creators

of justice, justice and joy!

I was staggered by the power of this: How radical, how audacious, to declare for everyone born, a place at the table, to call for a system that’s fair for both women and men. This is one of the most exciting aspects of faith: calling forth the radical notion that everyone, everyone, everyone, is equal and deserving of shelter, safety, sustenance, respect, justice– that God will delight where we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace. The social justice call of the Catholic Church is one of its biggest redeeming factors to me, the drive that keeps me committed to my church despite the lack of woman leaders and its official stance on things like homosexuality. I grew up with this faith, and it comforts and sustains me– or rather, I use my Catholic faith to communicate to God, and God is the One who is my support. The call to social justice, to helping those in need and working for social and economic equality for the most downtrodden, which is being led by the Sisters, is inspiring and exactly what we as humans should be doing. The motto of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet is, Caring for the dear neighbor without distinction. What a wonderful reminder.

When I looked up these lyrics online, I found an additional, optional stanza that celebrates the “rainbow” of diversity across genders and sexualities, a note that is especially powerful in light of Pope Francis’s recent comments about finding balance in the Church. I think it is important to remember that, while the pope sets the tone for the Church, we as individuals have always been called to make moral decisions; I realized long before Pope Francis’s compassionate focus that I was going to treat everybody with love and respect, as is their right as human beings. I do not hold with this nonsense of hating on gay and transgender folk, and anyone and everyone else who does not fit society’s mold. It wasn’t so long ago that women were marginalized by society, and African Americans and Native Americans– and let’s be honest, these groups and many others (immigrants, LBGTQA) are still not receiving fair treatment today.

These are the things I think of when I hear a hymn like “A Place at the Table.” I am reminded of why I love my church, and inspired to work for God to bring justice and compassion into the lives of others. I am thankful to live at a time and a place where people are working hard to make social justice a reality for all. This Sunday, let’s all remember to to our part in making a place at the table for everyone.

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