Rich food and choice wines

Today’s readings invite us to great feasts. In the first reading, from Isaiah, we hear, “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.” In the Gospel we hear Jesus liken the kingdom of heaven to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He reminds those invited, “I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”

Wedding Feast

These readings are rich in meaning, offering, in and of themselves, a bountiful feast, a feast full of satisfying meaning for the soul.  So rich and plentiful, no one should go away unfulfilled.

Let us begin then by looking at the menu: rich food and pure, choice wines, fattened cattle and tender veal. We live in a time and culture that warns us of the dangers inherent in gorging ourselves on such rich and decadent fare. We hear it everywhere: if you want to look good and stay heathy, avoid rich foods, avoid alcohol, and exercise.

The plethora of commercials on television promoting weight loss plans would indicate that the numbers of people overweight is significant. It appears as though almost everyone is dieting or has been on a diet at some point in their life.

Most everyone loses the excess weight but most also gain it back, and then some. Those who are or who have been dieting often do so just long enough to rid themselves of excess weight, only to return to their old habits of eating rich and juicy food. That is what is commonly called the “Yoyo plan,” bouncing from thin to fat to thin, over and over again. I can personally attest to yoyoing a few times in my life. Over the past 13 weeks I have lost 46 lbs. by severely restricting my food intake and walking. My goal is to lose 50 pounds.

My concern is this: when I reach my goal, how do I stop the yoyo cycle? How do I keep those pounds from coming back? I can hear them now, those rich foods just lying in wait, beckoning, beckoning, beckoning.

It would seem then that the only solution is to give up all those marvelously tasting rich foods and choice wines … forever. The message we hear is abundantly clear: if you want to be healthy, attractive, and successful, life must be grim and unsatisfying. No wonder we all say “No Thanks!” to that.

And yet, perhaps diets fail, not because we refuse to live grim and dissatisfying lives, but because we too quickly become complacent. We convince ourselves the fat has left the body, never to return. We convince ourselves that we have paid the price and can now enjoy the feast without penalty. We convince ourselves we will indulge “just this once.”

All this convincing is not at all convincing, because we know that the next item on the menu is complacency. We have reached our goal; the reaching of it is no longer front-and-center in our life; we quickly settle back and forget the pounds so sorely lost.

That dish of complacency, served in a dark bowl of egotism, is accompanied by a dollop of self-pity, a dash of shame and disappointment, and completely smothered in resentment. Pushing that dish aside, giving it up, saying no to dessert is often one of the most difficult things we can do.

In the gospel, those privileged to receive an invitation to the banquet were not interested in attending. Their response to the servants dispatched to invite the guests, not once but twice, was one of apathy. Worse, it wasn’t because they had something even better to attend, no, they just did not care to go. They continued doing what they had been doing, attending to business, checking out new livestock, etc.

There was a time when some of us might admit to occasionally missing Mass on a Sunday for some special event.

But today, the situation in many parishes is similar to the parable. It no longer takes a special event to keep people from coming to the feast; they just continue on with life as if there is no King, no Son, no banquet.

’Practical atheists,’ one writer commented about them. Life lived as if fast food is as good as it gets and the idea of a kingdom feast is one with an obsolete shelf date. So many don’t come to the banquet. They have no interest in joining at the meal. There is no glorious feast that then resonates through all of life giving it meaning and savor. Life simply goes on and on until it stops.1

One of my favorite books is a small fantasy written by C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce. In it he suggests—and rightly so—that the option between heaven and hell is a radical choice we all have, but for many, a choice they refuse to make.

In this small, allegorical tale, we find ourselves in hell / purgatory waiting for a bus. After a long bus ride, the passengers find themselves in a strange place, at the entrance to heaven, a place they all have stated they wish to go; yet, most cannot accept they are just steps away from heaven. They are unwilling to let go of their resentments, jealousies, and egos.

Some quickly return to the bus, eager to leave the heaven they don’t know, preferring the hell that they do. A few shed their clothes of shame and resentment and take on the clothes of Christ. Losing the baggage of their sins, letting go of all that they had so zealously hung onto, even their sins, they abandoned themselves in radical trust and the love of God.

But God sees things differently, as we heard a few weeks ago when he said, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.”

God has given us life and he wants us to enjoy ourselves in this life. He knows we will make mistakes; he will always forgive us if we ask for his forgiveness. God sees our humanity through the humanity of his only Son. At the end of our lives, we will be judged through the eyes of Jesus’ humanity, but we must come to the wedding banquet properly attired. We must shed ourselves of our old clothes of self-sufficiency, vanity, selfishness, and egotism. It means we must put on new clothes, the wedding garment of acceptance: acceptance of our limitations and imperfections, acceptance of our need for forgiveness, acceptance of the invitation to the wedding banquet of the Son by the Father.

I recently came across a beautiful invitation which I would share with your today:

The Father
requests the honor of your presence
at the marriage supper of His Son,
Jesus Christ,
to be held in heaven.

Only those will be admitted
who come clothed in the Wedding Garment
provided by the Father.

“He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
Isaiah 61:10.

The invitation is for everyone, no one is excluded. God invites all peoples to celebrate the love, commitment and union we have with His Son.

It is sometimes difficult to comprehend the depth and breadth of God’s love. The gates of heaven are open to all, both the bad and the good.

As Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

Jesus Christ prepares us, as it were, for God’s presence and for each other’s company, so that we can sit down together at table. … He clothes himself so to speak, in the garment of our poverty, and in being taken up by him, we are able to be with God, we have gained access to God. We are washed through our willingness to yield to his love. The meaning of this love is that God accepts us without preconditions, even if we are unworthy of his love, incapable of relating to him, because he, Jesus Christ, transforms us and becomes a brother to us.2

God created us to always be fed the very best, the richest and juiciest food and the choicest wine. In heaven, we will enjoy a feast at the wedding supper of the Lamb, and in this life, we are fed the very best when we receive the Eucharist, in the bread and wine now transubstantiated into the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. There is no richer food or choicer wine to be enjoyed.

Amen.

Homily #144
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Isaiah 25:6-10A
Philippians 4:12-13, 19-20
Matthew 22:1-14

 


1 Richard Eslinger, Athenaeum of Ohio.
2 Pope Benedict XVI, God Is Near Us, p. 31.

About the Author

Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator.

Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin.

He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is “Colloqui: A journal for restless minds”, a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated.

He is the author of two books: “The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence” which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and “Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories” which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love.

He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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