28th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 11 October 2020
Scripture Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 25:6-10A; Responsorial: Psalm 23; II: Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14
It is profoundly significant, and no accident, that as we face times of intense challenge and uncertainty that our Bible readings this Sunday focus upon a theme very close to the Heart of God. The theme of the Banquet of God, the abundance of our Lord, is enriched in each message from the Holy Spirit. That this abundance would be promised in times of strife and sickness, again is no accident. God calls us to be in this world but people of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.
To explore, prayerfully to better realize, this great opportunity we will use a tool that you may remember from school. A tool that was always at hand as I worked in fire services responding to the media about a fire or some other disaster. As we look to this holy and awesome invitation from God let us explore five vital points to best respond to our Lord. The WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHO and WHY of this call are vital to our souls, and, to the heart of God who calls us to this Banquet of graces.
WHAT is this Banquet of the King about? The parable from the Gospel of Matthew uses the metaphor of a wedding feast for the son of the king. This actually foretells the wedding feast between Jesus and the Church, the Bride of Christ. This great feast emphasizes that this celebration is a banquet of love. The early Church, as a part of the Eucharistic meal would have their Agape Feasts. These “Love Feasts” brought together the faithful in what would perhaps later be known as the church potluck. But these ancient liturgies focused upon the love of God that brought the faithful together and the love of God they anticipated, in fullness, upon the return of Jesus. But this holy banquet is much more than just a wedding feast. It is a feast of celebration of the abundance of grace and love God has for ALL PEOPLES! All the faithful were welcome (and ALL were welcome to become a part of the faithful) and all brought, what they had as active participants in these prophetic meals. Our Old Testament reading from the prophet is extraordinary. Although given to the Jews this beautiful message of abundant grace is clearly proclaimed as being for everyone. This weaving of time in the Old Testament brings us to ask: When is this banquet?
WHEN is the time for this banquet of graces? If we are to respond, readily, faithfully to God’s invitation we must know the time, one would think. We need to realize this holy meal is a threshold of eternity. As we cannot confine or regulate the graces of God neither can we confine or regulate…eternity. Much as we try. This Banquet of God will be experienced in fullness at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb of God, of Christ and His Bride. But it is also experienced in many other times of our walk with God. In each sacramental moment, especially in the Eucharist, but also in our feasting upon the Bread Life, the Word of God. It is celebrated in the poorest of soup kitchens. It is found (perhaps unrealized) in the simplest family meal. The Gospels give numerous examples of when Jesus gathered people to His Presence…they feasted on His love and grace. Abundantly. To realize that the when of this Divine Meal transcends time brings us to better enter into the where of the Banquet of the Lord.
WHERE? For Catholic Christians the most familiar understanding of the Banquet of God would be, of course, The Eucharist. To truly receive the Real Presence, The actual Body and Blood of Jesus is the feast of feasts that both transcends but also prepares for eternity. It is, perhaps, a hidden grace that in this past year with the ability to participate in Mass severely limited for so many that we may better cherish this great holy gift. But, prayerfully, hopefully, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to show us also the essential Eucharistic Presence of Jesus is not found in quantity but the quality of our encounter. Might not the Holy Spirit be preparing us for times ahead of greater challenges and graces as we prepare for our King and His return? In preparing us God would remind us, as mentioned above, Jesus will meet and nourish us in banquets not always anticipated. David, in the 23rd Psalm speaks of the banquet God prepares in the presence of his enemies. Paul the Apostle speaks of the abundance of God provided as the faithful shared, from their need. To more fully enjoy the times of these holy sharings we need to look to who is invited. This is often the most difficult part of God’s banquet.
WHO? Or maybe, more honestly WHO?? God, you can’t mean THEY are coming!!!! I truly believe that many will be surprised by who specifically and collectively may be seated next to or across from them at this meal of mercy. Just as many may be very surprised to see some of us there as well. Although Scripture, both Old and New Testament clearly teach that God’s Banquet of Grace is open to all we often have difficulty with others at the table of God. I hope everyone read the full Gospel for today. If you did what portion did you focus upon? For many Christians (and unbelievers) the focus is at the end. Not about the great celebration. Not about all those called. Not about the abundant feast. But that one part..”many are called but few are chosen.” Some focus on this in fear…”what if I am not chosen?” This fear is often fueled by others who assign clear and often rigid rules and expectation as to what is required and expected. Theses judgments are tied in with the preceding portion about the man who was at the banquet. But NOT in wedding attire! Whenever we are invited to a special event we, as courtesy, need to know, what should I wear? Is it formal or casual? In the lesson of the wedding feast we would ask..”What is my wedding garment? What God wants us for us to be changed. It isn’t about a type of clothes but a type of life. We, generally would not think of going to a wedding in the same clothes we wear when doing grubby chores. We would clean-up and change to OUR best. What Jesus wants to see us in is our on-GROWING change, our conversion. He longs that, as Paul wrote elsewhere, for us to be enjoying the graces of that from “glory to glory God changes us.” And it is the best from each of our individual hearts. The heart of someone born into the gifts of the faith will have journey, a path different from a convert of later years. The point is God want us changed into our best for Him. An important point we need to realize about this banquet. Scripture is clear. ALL are invited. Yes it is also very clear that some will not be chosen to participate, without their garment. But we must allow and recognize it is the King who decides who will share. Not those invited.
WHY? All of these points of learning of the Banquet of God are encompassed in the final point. Why does God want us in this glorious feast? The answer is given, again, from the prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit, speaking through the prophet, tells of this abundant rich banquet, for ALL people upon His holy mountain. This would be, of course Calvary, at the Cross, we are all brought to know this holy meal of God’s grace. For it is at the Cross we have the reason WHY we are invited. God loves us. It is that simple. In the Song of Solomon it is proclaimed”. “He brought me to His banqueting table and His banner over me is love.”
As we journey into the days ahead, days perhaps of uncertainty and many challenges or perhaps in the peace and joys of life from blessings unexpected, may we know that we are called to share in the Banquet of the King. Now and for all eternity. May we be ready and may we share in welcoming others into His Presence.