28th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2011
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son…” Matt 22:2 There is nothing perhaps more universal in human societies than the celebration a marriage banquet with its great meal, entertainment and the great company of relatives and friends. Wedding banquets are enjoyed by virtually everyone in every culture. How interesting then that Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a great wedding banquet given by a King for His Son. So that is what Heaven is, a great wedding feast provided by God for His Son, Jesus. Great wedding banquets in this world are joyful and exhilarating, great food, great company, music, conversation, happiness. What, then, must that eternal wedding feast be like that constitutes the life of the Angels and Saints. It can’t be less joyful or less exhilarating, or less happy than the greatest earthly wedding feast. It has to be joy, happiness exhilaration raised to the nth degree, an experience we can only begin to imagine here on earth, assuming we have known the joy, happiness and exhilaration of such a feast here in earth. St. Paul describes this unparalleled joy and happiness of the Heavenly wedding banquet this way: “hat no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceive the things God has prepared for those.
Well, then, who are the main players in this eternal feast? The Father, of course, and then the Son who is the eternal bridegroom. But who is the Bride? We are, that is the Church is, the Church is the Bride of Christ, and in Heaven, the Church will consist only of the saints who have proven faithful to the Bridegroom here on earth. In a real sense there are no guests at this wedding feast, but only the Bride and Groom. But, there are countless persons present since the Bride is constituted by all the faithful who are judged worthy of the Bridegroom and His Kingdom.
Human Marriage was, from the beginning, intended by God to be a sign of this eternal union between God and man in the person of Jesus Christ and then in the union between Christ and His Church. That’s why Jesus made Christian marriage a true sacrament of grace, because all grace comes to this world from the union between Christ and His Church. Moreover, Genesis says that by virtue of marriage man and woman become one flesh. And that mystery reaches unheard of depths when Jesus becomes one flesh with the Church when she becomes His Bride through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
That mystery of the union between Christ and His Church, the mystery and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” [25:6] Moreover, this great banquet will not be limited to Israel, for Isaiah adds that On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide [this feast] for all peoples. But what is this eternal rich food and choice wine that will be given on the Mountain? Surely this food and wine are something spiritual, for Paul says in his Letter to the Romans (14:17) “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
And that fact brings us back to earth. For there is already a sacrificial banquet of the Church that is deeply spiritual in nature, providing the rich food of Christ’s body and the choicest wine of Christ’s blood. The Eucharist we celebrate, then, is in fact the beginning of the Eternal wedding feast of Heaven, and thus the Heavenly eternal wedding feast we have been looking at begins already here on earth and then reaches its fullness only in Heaven. There it will be unending, eternal, endless joy and happiness; no going back into the world. Here it is only beginning, a foretaste, a promise of what is to come, so long as we remain part of the feast here on earth.
The Church, then, with here Eucharistic banquet is not only the Bride of Christ but the new Zion, the new mountain of God from which and Eucharist is indeed the beginning of the great Heavenly banquet, offering to God and to man the richest food and wine which is the sacred body and blood of Jesus the Bridegroom.
Once you believe in this great work of God and live this truth at the banquet of the Eucharist, you begin to understand why for Paul nothing is really necessary for his happiness except Christ. Sure we need food and clothing because we are not spirits without bodies, but even these things are nothing in comparison to the blessing we have already received in Christ, nothing compared to our faith which enables us to receive Christ in our hearts, and in our very bodies through the Eucharist.
The only thing that we need fear is that we might grow bored by the banquet of the Eucharist, lose our interest in the Bread of Life and end up rejecting the invitation of the Father because our business or our leisure or our rest seems more important than the wedding feast . How many Catholics have done just that today, abandoned the Eucharist, then abandoned the Church which is the Bride of Christ?
We must not grow careless and allow ourselves to grow cold, to be lax and find ourselves unprepared to join the Heavenly banquet due to our care servants are late for the banquet and find themselves locked out. When I hear that parable I always think of how it might apply to people who are frequently careless about getting to Church on time. What does it say about their love for the Bridegroom when they show up late or leave early week after week – that it’s not out of love but just a sense of duty that they come at all, like attending a funeral or wedding of someone we don’t particularly care about, but feel a duty to go anyway. Is this the way we will show up at that final Heavenly banquet? Does not such carelessness eventually destroy one’s love for the Bridegroom and the Bride?
Nor must be become presumptuous like the man at the end of the parable who shows up, but is not dressed rightly for the banquet. Some Fathers interpreted this wedding garment, correctly I think, as the Baptismal grace which is symbolized by the white garment placed over the newly Baptized. One cannot even enter the Heavenly banquet without this Baptismal garment of grace, and it is presumptuous to think we can enter the eternal wedding feast without Grace. It is an insult to the King.
There is no greater privilege that we receive in this life than our ability to participate in the Holy Eucharist, not simply as a guest, but as part of the Bride, part of the Church. We should be doing this with great love and purity, and not simply out of a sense of duty, which it is of course. But love is the real power of the wedding feast of Jesus. Nothing is more important each week for our salvation than this Mass. It is truly a feast of love, and a feast of joy, at least for those who truly believe in the One who calls us and makes us his children, and His Church.