“Come to the feast ”
(Fr Regie, MSP)
We take great delights in celebrations, in parties and we feel honoured and privileged when invited. Most of the times our invitation goes only to the ones we know, our relatives and friends. This Sunday’s readings extend our thought to the banquet God is offering for everyone, that of eternal life. The drama we find in the Gospel parable (Matthew 22:1-14) is not probably a surprise as we have people rejecting God, and so we ask, even if God is generous in offering this banquet of eternal bliss, harmony, justice, love, joy, does everyone come to the feast? No one is forced, our image of God is the one who gives us freedom, hence he does not coerce. However, everyone is remembered, each one is a recipient of an offer, and all is welcome. He simply invites and so what we need is to freely respond.
Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast reveals what we will anticipate in the future but also the reality of our responses to God’s invitation at present. He is not talking about an earthly wedding banquet. He is pointing to the truth of the kingdom of God. We discover in the story a seeming absurd reactions of the people and wonder why respond negatively to an invitation that gives us delight and happiness. Indeed, it wouldn’t be easy to see the logic of Jesus when we are distracted with worldly affairs and when we care less for life in eternity. The business of this world is more important than salvation. This is the mystery of our iniquity, even if we listen to the Word of God, sometimes we just simply refuse without any good reason or reject it without even considering the good that it can bring us. So Jesus again and again challenges his listeners to “come and see.”
We have a beautiful image of a banquet in the first reading (Isaiah 25:6-10) with God who provides the choicest blessings reflective an earthly meal, “a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” This ultimately anticipates, however, the heavenly banquet when “he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…” We have a glimpse of this truth in our deep encounter with God who lavishly loves and accepts us and who gives us peace and joy. This is a spiritual banquet where we can rejoice with the presence of God even when we still struggle in our daily endeavours and face all our challenges.
Writing to the Philippians (4:12-14; 19-20), Saint Paul expressed a kind of spiritual feasting on the graces he received being called by Christ. He has laboured in his missionary journey, never tired of inviting people to “come to the feast of Jesus Christ” who has laid himself as an offering for the eternal banquet. St Paul understood very well that Christ is the source of his strength in everything he does and in all kinds of life’s situation he faces. He said, “I have learned how to cope with every circumstance- how to eat well and go hungry, to be well provided for or do without. In him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything.”
The Holy Eucharist is a banquet, a meal, instituted to us by Jesus in the last supper. The table, the altar is not prepared by material food that perishes but the “manna from heaven,” the bread of life who in the words of Jesus, inviting us to “eat his body and drink his blood”. This is a glimpse of the eternal banquet of heaven, “By the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all” (CCC 1326). The invitation of Jesus in the Gospel parable then reminds us not just to go to the wedding banquet, but also being “properly dressed.” In receiving the Holy Eucharist, we are also invited to prepare ourselves spiritually by repenting our sins, and in cases of grave sins to receive first the sacrament of reconciliation before taking communion. Finally, may we hear in our hearts and respond to the invitation of God to come to his feast.