Even if we’re ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ God’s table awaits

Mural of characters from “Where the Wild Things Are,” at a Thundercloud Subs shop in Austin, Texas

First holy Communion is celebrated in May at our parish. We’ve structured our program around a parent-centered role, honoring them, as the church does, as “the first and best” teachers of the faith. So when I suggested a book they could read with their children to help them better understand the feast to which they are welcomed, I chose a book many parents know well, one which most of us have read aloud to a child: Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.

Sendak was neither a theologian nor a Christian, but he wrote an enduring story that begins and ends with a meal and a table, a table that remains waiting for the child even when the child abandons the table in search of more exotic pleasures. He writes of a meal that is never hidden from us, of a table that is always full, always welcoming.

The book begins on the night “Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another.”

Sendak writes, “His mother called him “WILD THING!” and Max said, “I’LL EAT YOU UP!”

There is nothing sweet about a wolf. No child goes to bed cuddling his stuffed wolf. Wolves are always the villains (“I’LL EAT YOU UP!”) and never the heroes. The wolf suit stands for all the ways we disguise and disfigure our humanity with sin. It separates us from ourselves and from others, in this case the most vital other, Max’s mother. “Mischief of one kind and another” is storybook language for the real damage our disfigured humanity wreaks, upon other people and upon the created world.

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