28th Sun [A] 2005

Fr. Charles Irvin

Isaiah 25:6-10; Philippians 4:12-14,19-20; Matthew 22:1-14

Eating at meals was important to Jesus… not just eating food but also sharing, one of the most important things we do in life with others at meals. He ate with others at meals in their homes, not in fast-food restaurants. He shared Himself in a setting where everyone spent significant time with each other during leisurely meals, banquets, and feasts. Jesus did this so often and with so many different types of people that His enemies accused Him of eating with gluttons, drunkards, and sinners.

In the New Testament we find the word “meal” used eight times, the word “banquet” used nine times, the word “feast” used thirty-five times, and the word “bread” used fifty-five times. Clearly meals and the human sharing at those meals was of great importance in the life and teachings of Jesus.

We should reflect today on our own experience and understanding of eating together. This should be is particularly important to us living as we do in a culture which conveys the message that eating is something we do individualistically with little regard for sharing our selves, our time, our thoughts, and our caring to be with others at meals. Are we sharing in a function, or are we sharing ourselves? Ask yourselves this question: What has happened to our family meals? Do we in fact share much time with each other around family meals? And just what do we share when we are together at table?

Sharing food with others carries implications of friendship, trust, closeness, caring, love, and even forgiveness. We cannot harbor hostilities against each other while at the same time sharing our food, our selves, and our time with each other in a long, lingering meal. Breaking bread together means breaking the chains of resentment, hostility, and bitterness that hold us in bondage.

One of the great themes in the Bible is that of the Messianic Banquet. A banquet is a rich and bountiful meal of delicacies and choice wines that fill us with shared delights, loosen our tongues, warm our hearts, and call us to share forgiveness, tolerance, understanding, and even love. Trust, friendship, friendship and intimacy become food for our souls when we share this holy community with others.

Ancient Jewish prophets saw the Messianic Banquet as something God would give us in fulfillment of His promises to us. Banquets are given in times of fulfillment, in times when promises are fulfilled. We have banquets when we graduate from school, when we are married, when we receive honors, and at other times of promises fulfilled. In the imagery of the Bible they are celebrated at end times, when hoped for things are realized and made present to us. Banquets are at end times, not at the end of time.

Too often people do not understand the proper use of the term “end times” when they preach or teach about the Bible. The biblical meaning of the end times is something quite different than notions about the end of all time. The birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus usher in the end time, that time when God fulfills His promises to us in His Son Jesus Christ. As we know, we are nowhere near the end of all time even though, in God’s grand scheme of things, we are now living in His end times, in those times when His promises to us are being fulfilled.

With all of these ideas a part of us, let us now ask ourselves why we are here at this Mass.

When we celebrate the Mass we go back at enter once again into the Last Supper along with Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. We enter into what we call the Paschal Mystery, all that Jesus did to join our humanity into His divinity so that through Him, with Him, and in Him, He can take us back to our Father in heaven. There we shall share forever in God’s Messianic Banquet.

The Mass is our sharing in the Messianic Banquet that has been begun by Jesus. Jesus is our Host. Not only that, He is the One who wants to share Himself with us, giving us Himself in the Living Bread that is our Eucharist. The Christ of glory is both our Host and our Living Bread.

So what am I bringing to this Banquet? Am I here with a heart loaded down with resentments? Am I here because if have to be here, or am I here because I want to be here? Am I here harboring resentment and bitterness toward others? We need to remember that each person on the face of this earth is a son or daughter of God. Every living person is invited to share in this Heavenly Banquet, that Supper prepared by Christ and set before us beginning with the Last Supper. Am I here, entering back into the Upper Room with Jesus, or am I here with my own little agenda, with a heart filled with stones, living in my own isolated little life? How can I share in Christ’s love if I am not living in reconciliation and forgiveness with others?

And what of those in our world who are hungry… hungry not only for food for their bellies but hungry in their empty hearts and thirsting in their souls for love, care and concern?

There are those, too, who hunger and thirst for justice. They hunger and thirst for a true justice, a system of justice that treats every person with equal dignity and respect, not just the rich and famous who seem to be served differently in our system of justice than the poor, the unknown, and those living at the bottom of our social ladder here in America.

If the end time is that time in which God’s promises are being fulfilled, and if we are here sharing in Christ’s Messianic Banquet, perhaps we should ask ourselves how we are fulfilling God’s promises in the lives of those around us. What are we doing to actually help them have their hopes fulfilled and God’s promises made real in their lives?

The Mass, you see, isn’t all about “me and Jesus,” it’s about “we and Jesus.” Am I here because I really want to share myself, or am I more concerned about going home so I can busy myself with only that which I want to do? If it’s all about me then I have a spiritual eating disorder.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”