Our Heavenly Father is delighted that we are here today. He rejoices that we are taking time this day to gather as His people, hear His word and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
This great banquet of love has been centuries in the making. He first offered Himself to the people of Israel as a paschal lamb which they ate before fleeing from slavery in Egypt. As they traveled through the desert to the Promised Land, He fed them with manna to sustain their journey. The prophets continually foretold that the coming of the Messiah would be like a wedding banquet. It is just such a proclamation that we hear in today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah. “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines...” Finally, when Jesus appeared, He gave us His body and blood in the form of bread and wine at the Last Supper. This Blessed Sacrament would be the way that we could continue to draw life from the saving power of His death and resurrection throughout the centuries.
Our gathering today is really a partial fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in today’s first reading. Our Heavenly Father has prepared a banquet for us. The first course is His holy word which reveals to us His loving mercy and instructs us in how to live a good life. When we hear the scriptures proclaimed, we are hearing God’s own voice echoing down to us through the centuries. The second course is the Body and Blood of Jesus which is given to us in the form of bread and wine. When the priest prays the words of institution, that is, the very words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, then the gifts we offer are no longer bread and wine but truly the Body and Blood of Jesus. Can you think of any finer food that could be given to us? Can you think of any greater feast we could celebrate?
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the parable of a king who sends out invitations to his son’s wedding banquet. When the people rejected the invitation, he reached out to them again reminding them just what it was that they were missing. “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.” We can hear the sadness and hurt in his voice that no one had responded to his generous invitation. However, he did not call the banquet off, but reached out to others of lower social status to fill the banquet hall and join him in celebrating the marriage of his son.
That is why God is delighted with us today. We are among those who accepted the invitation to join in this banquet of love. Like the wedding feast in the parable, we are a mixture of good and bad. We have great saints among us and great sinners. We have those who live the faith everyday and those who are just going through the motions. Very often the great sinners and the great saints are the same people! However, despite our weakness, despite our failings, despite our doubt, we come to this feast. No matter where we are in our walk of faith, Jesus welcomes us and rejoices that we have said “Yes” to His invitation.
At the same time, we cannot help but carry a heavy heart for those who have rejected the invitation, for those who have found other things to do than join us for the celebration of the Eucharist today. There may be a thousand reasons why they chose to say “no”, and, of course, it is not our place to judge them. However, what often happens is that people make bad choices and fall into patterns of sin. Sin always makes us focus in on ourselves. Eventually, we get to a point at which we think that it is impossible for us to turn back. We imagine that God could never forgive us because of everything we have done. Other times, pride blinds us. We refuse to admit that we have done anything wrong, anything that we need to ask forgiveness for.
Jesus makes it perfectly clear - He came to call sinners. Whenever a sinner turns to Him, He rejoices. He never rejects anyone who comes to Him with a sincere heart. Even when He knows we will fail again, He always welcomes us with an open heart. He longs to show His mercy to us. The greater a sinner we are the more He rejoices in lavishing His mercy on us. There is no reason to stay away from the banquet that God has prepared for us, to turn away from Jesus’ mercy or to continue enslaved in patterns of hate, addiction or corruption.
It is up to us, then, who are enjoying this rich banquet and who have feasted on the Divine Mercy to extend the invitation to others. It is as simple as saying to a friend or family member, “Why don’t you join me at church this Sunday?” If that does not work, we can always share with others what we learned at Mass, what great programs are underway in our parish or diocese, or how faith in Christ has changed us. By sharing our faith, we give others something to think about which then opens a path for the Holy Spirit to work. Finally, we can always pray for those who have left the faith, that whatever hurts they have experienced will be healed and that whatever obstacle keeps them from joining us will be cleared away. In the end, it is God’s work to send out the invitation and to choose who will be welcome.
Soon we will hear the words, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.” We are truly blessed beyond measure to gather every Sunday to hear God’s word and receive Jesus’ Body and Blood. It is both a fulfillment of what the prophets foretold and a foretaste of the wedding feast of heaven when Jesus will unite Himself fully with His bride, the Church. Until that day, we strive to fill this church with those willing to accept the invitation, no matter their social status, income or race. This makes our Heavenly Father’s joy complete!