Today’s readings from the Book of Isaiah, the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians and the Gospel of Matthew speak of an invitation to the Great Feast of the Lord Jesus. Summarizing these readings, the first one is prophetic in nature. It speaks of the Great Feast that is to come. The Second Reading echoes how God provides for our needs. The Third Reading tells us that God calls everyone to His feast but not all answer His calling.
The reading from the Book of Isaiah is a prophecy regarding the promised salvation that was to come, it having been fulfilled through the Blood of Jesus Christ.
This prophetic passage expresses the longing of the people for the days of the absolute triumph of God over the enemies of His chosen people and the Messianic banquet that will follow in the Kingdom of God.
The gift of eternal life and the rejoicing of God’s children in the great banquet has been fulfilled through the Blood of Christ when Jesus gave up His life on the Holy Cross for the sins of the world. Since then, commemorating the Last Supper, God’s children participate daily on a worldwide basis in the Holy Mass, the great banquet, to receive Christ through the Church Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Death has been conquered, life being given to God’s children through Jesus, the Bread of Life.
The Second Reading appears to be wondering off the subject of the great banquet. But, indirectly, it fits perfectly with today’s other two readings. The reading shines in Divine Providence, showing how the Lord God provides for His children.
From Paul’s words, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” we can perceive his complete trust in the Lord to provide for his daily needs. Paul had learned to be content with whatever he had. He had learned the secret of being well fed, this referring to spiritual food. He found strength in the Lord Jesus. While Paul had to endure for a while, he saw the grace of God that came with such suffering.
Reviewing the reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we perceive that there is a spiritual meaning involved. We are no longer at a Great Feast but at a Royal Wedding Feast. It is a Wedding Banquet that the Father gives for His Son. The Son is Jesus. The Bride is the invisible Kingdom of God on earth, the Mystical Body of Christ that is made visible through the Holy Catholic Church. The Holy Catholic Church had its beginning in Jerusalem on Pentecost Day when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit.
From the Old Testament, we learn that the first guests who were invited to the Wedding Banquet were the Jewish people and their leaders, they being God’s chosen people. Having rejected God’s invitation, the Lord sent out His invitation to the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people.
The invitations were sent out to all, the good and the bad. These generous invitations echo the abounding love and mercy of God that reaches out towards all, forgiving the sins of those who will sincerely repent of their evil ways in order to embrace a life of righteousness.
Today, the invited Gentiles are you and I, and all those who have received the Sacrament of Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity. Having been born again through faith in Christ by water and Spirit, they qualify as children of God if they persevere in their living faith until the end.
The necessity to persevere in the living faith is confirmed by the reference to the wedding robe. In those days, the proper garment to wear at a wedding was a clean white robe. The Book of Revelation tells us that those who are dressed in white are the worthy ones. Those who persevere in the living faith are those keeping their faith alive by the close relationship with Christ and living their faith day by day in the works of mercy.
The mentioning of the good and bad is also symbolic of the condition of the Church throughout its history. Enduring until the Judgment, it is composed of sinners; some who persevere in their living faith and some who choose not to do so.
We see that in today’s Gospel. Jesus speaks about a king with a long list of people invited to a wedding banquet. The banquet today for you and me is the Eucharist the anticipation (preparation) of the banquet is heaven – as our first reading makes clear: “a feast of rich foods and choice wines” where God “will remove the veil that veils all people…he will destroy death forever.” Sadly the invited guests refuse to come. They have more important things on their mind. They even make fun of the king’s messengers and mistreat them.
All are invited, but not all respond. It’s hard for us to come to grip with the fact that not everyone might be saved. Even those who were once invited and being baptized and attended Eucharist but were not able to keep their living faith. Not everyone will be saved. Yet that is the conclusion of today’s parable: “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Well, it is important to understand that heaven is a banquet. Everyone likes the general idea of a banquet, but regarding any specific banquet it depends on what is on the menu.
Even though we are made for God, all of us, in this life we have to develop a taste for God. It is easy to fill ourselves with other things – a kind of spiritual junk food. People often do not go to Mass because “it is boring.” Well, a salad is boring in comparison to French Fries or a candy. But a person can cultivate and should cultivate a taste for salad and vegetables – just like a person can and should develop a taste for God. After all loving and living relationship with God is not for entertainment, it is a relationship of deep love, loyalty and commitment.
Hell is a self-made prison. A man builds his own hell out of things he developed his taste for such as anger, hate, pornography, hurt feelings, vanity, false self-image, materialism and lies etc. They become his daily diet – and he loses (or never acquires) a taste for God. Heaven’s banquet (which is nothing more and nothing less than God) holds no attraction for him – other things seem more compelling.
So, yes, Jesus shed his blood for all – and he invites all to the heavenly banquet. But not all accept the invitation. By prayer, by the sacraments by living our faith day by day and feeding on weekly basis with the Eucharist we can increase our taste for God.
While all are called, not all answer their calling by God, some rejecting the invitation, some not accepting it fully.
Not being adorned with a white robe that identifies them as children of God, those who neglect their salvation shall be thrown out in outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Holy Mass is the Great Wedding Feast that is opened to all those who have been baptized and who live their faith in Christ. The Living Bread, the Holy Eucharist, assures each and every one of us our salvation as long as this Church Sacrament is received.
When we refuse God who has prepared a place for us in his house he does not punish us, we punish ourselves. We miss out on all he has made ready for us. We miss out on the ‘party’, the feast and have to spend eternity outside the Father’s house, in the dark. That would be hell, wouldn’t it?
Let us continue to praise and worship the Lord for having blessed us with this great Feast, the Eucharist.