FIRST READING (The Lord will prepare a feast and wipe away the tears from every face.)
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (25:6-10a)
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain 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 every face; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!” For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6)
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. (Ps 23:6cd)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. (R)
He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. (R)
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (R)
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. (R)
SECOND READING (I can do all things in him who strengthens me.)
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians (4:12-14, 19-20)
Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.
My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Cf. Eph 1:17-18)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, so that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call. (R)
GOSPEL (Invite to the wedding feast whomever you find.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (22:1-14)
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But the man was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
GOSPEL (Invite to the wedding feast whomever you find.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (22:1-10)
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“The Banquet of the Lord”
One of the first musical plays I attended as a teenager was the Broadway adaptation of the Charles Dicken’s novel, Oliver Twist. One scene that resonated to many young people attending the musical was the song, “Food, Glorious Food!,” sung by a band of poor street children who were deprived of food, and so dreamed of a sumptuous, plentiful, all-you-can eat banquet. Many decades later, while pastor of a small parish community in Khabarovsk, after noticing abandoned children living under the streets in the cold of winter, a group of volunteers from the parish organized a hot lunch to be served to this motley collection of children from 7 or 8 through mid-teens, covered with sores, cuts, bruises and dressed in rags. Their lunch was a simple bowl of broth, a beef or pork cutlet, a few slices of boiled potato, a spoon of hot cabbage, an orange or apple for dessert and a cup of black tea – and yet, watching them eat reminded me of this song, “Food, Glorious Food”
Although not a stranger to deprivation and starvation from my early years in Tanzania, and then my first few winters in the Russian Far East, for most of us, we fail to appreciate the basic function of food, or the reality in some parts of the world of children going to sleep hungry. We spend millions on diets, food fads, exercise equipment, and treating some with bulimia while others are treated for obesity. Eating – one of the most basic functions of every human, has for some become a disorder.
In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah envisions a huge banquet prepared “on God’s mountain.” The theme of such a great banquet is very popular in the Bible – and is even part of the theme in our Responsorial psalm, where the Good Shepherd “spreads the table before us,” – the meal, or heavenly banquet here a sign of God’s favour and protection.
From the times of the Old Testament, meals were seen as a powerful way of bringing people together – a social occasion. A meal is seen as a time to be with friends, to talk, to become acquainted, to make plans, to welcome or bid farewell to someone. We gather for birthdays, for anniversaries, for wedding receptions, for office parties for family picnics, and even for funerals. Probably one of the most difficult experiences for all of us in these months of the pandemic has been the near-impossibility of gathering for meals – gathering around large round dining tables with 10 to 20 family members sharing a bounteous meal.
We use the ancient expression “breaking bread together” to describe meals – from the ancient Near East custom of the host welcoming guests by taking a large unleavened loaf, break off pieces and passing them to invited guests to show we share in a common meal, a common plate, and through the meal we are sharing a bond of friendship and communion. Eating together signifies trust – because during a meal we lower our guard. And in many societies, the hospitality extended to others can establish reconciliation between possible enemies, if only for the duration of the meal. But in a culture dominated by fast food, or the inability to gather in groups, the profound meaning of meals is gradually being lost.
To what can we compare sharing a sumptuous meal of delicious food and delightful drink, surrounded by those whom we love? Isn’t this why we celebrate, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries in this manner? Think of the poignant wedding witnessed in last year’s move, “The Farewell”! (A film a again highly recommend). Because of the depth of the meaning of such meals, it is no wonder that the banquet becomes a metaphor for the characterizing the end-times. For Isaiah, it represents the banquet prepared for the Israelites returning after decades in exile to the new Jerusalem. In Psalm 23, it represents the love of the Good Shepherd. For St. Paul and his letter to the Philippians, it is an appreciation for both want and abundance; for need and God’s supply. And for the most part of today’s Gospel parable, it represents God’s supreme hospitality and generosity. The Gospel parable is also replete with end-time imagery such as decision (to be invited and accept the invitation) and judgment (weighed against those who refuse). Many are invited to the banquet, but few accept the invitation. They have forgotten that celebratory meals are more than simply eating and drinking. Have those who reject the invitation turned their backs on friendship, on intimacy, on trust and reconciliation? It seems so. However, in the parable the dictum “omnium parata sunt” (all is prepared) is seen – the wedding is prepared and the king is intent on the banquet.
While some commentators see the parable aimed at those who first rejected the message and preaching of Jesus as Messiah, and on one level this is true. The parable condemns their obstinacy, but it also challenges us. How have we here accepted God’s invitation to the messianic banquet? Have we recognized and understood the invitation? Do we clearly understand that to refuse this invitation is to cut ourselves off from our source of life? God does not force salvation on us – he offers it freely as an invitation, but accepting the call is up to us. Many are called…
And what of the person at the end without the proper garments? That person accepted the invitation but came improperly dressed. For us this metaphor reminds us that receiving the invitation to life and communion with Christ is one thing. But staying in union with Him is something else. It means more than simply “showing up.” We have to be ready to do our part.
We are called to seek grace through obedience, through good works, through discipleship, through repentance, through sacrifice. In and through Jesus, the very life of God is offered to us all – but with the condition that we are willing to be willing to change our life and become disciples of the Lord through following the Gospel, the Gospel which gives us the transforming power of God. To stretch the metaphor of the man dressed poorly, we need to give up or put aside our old clothing and habits and put on the new clothes of Christian discipleship to sit at the banquet of the Lord.
The invitation we heard from Isaiah is repeated yet again in his chapter 55 inviting us all to the Messianic Banquet. “Come to me!” Come to the Banquet! Come to the Lord, the Shepherd who spreads the table before us!”
Celebrant: God invites us to his banquet of life. Let us ask this generous Father for all our needs.
READER: That the Church on earth may thrive and grow and draw many to the feast of the kingdom, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That rich and poor alike may not make excuses to evade the call to the kingdom, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That through our apostolic efforts and outreach, we may provide the hungry with their share of God’s bounty, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That we may be found worthy to come to the supper of the Lamb of God each time we participate at Mass, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For those who have asked for our prayers and for our faithful departed and the bereaved who mourn for them, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Most gracious and generous Father, you call us to share your bounty. As we pray for others, help us to bring them with us to that banquet set forth by your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. (all) AMEN.