TWENTY-EIGHT SUNDAY                         OCTOBER 15, 2017


I There was a Pasta Party at our conference center last evening.  Word has it that it was quite sumptuous. It sounds like Isaiah predicted it – “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, or rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.”

Were you not invited? Well, neither was I.


Isaiah’s banquet was intended for all the peoples of the earth – for people devastated by hurricanes, wildfires, persecution, poverty.


It is a surprise party for humanity, specially planned for people who have been trapped in chaos and tragedy. So the prophet writes, “The Lord of hosts will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.”


This vision is not just what awaits all those who now suffer in the future life. It is a vision of what human life ought to be if humans work together for all the peoples of this earth. It is the vision of what could happen if we really fed one another.


The gospel also describes a banquet. From Isaiah through the gospels, meals are an on-going image of God’s presence with us. Jesus did much of his preaching of the kingdom by eating with friends, with sinners, with enemies. Jesus continues to do this by sharing his body and blood with us in the Eucharistic banquet.


Eating and drinking together is a sign of union with God. Is this difficult to comprehend? Christianity is a vision of God becoming human. Human encounters henceforth are full of God’s presence. All of creation was holy from the beginning because it came forth from God but, once the Word became flesh, all material reality has become radiantly holy. All human life is sacred. All of the created universe with animals, plants, stars, planets, black energy is sacred. We haven’t always lived as though we lived in a sacral world. From the beginning of Christianity there have been groups that could not tolerate such a vision. Surely materiality must be below the sacred and, for some, material is actually evil until touched by grace. If you are a student of church history you have heard of Donatists, Gnostics, Manicheans, Albigensians, Jansenists, Puritans and others as well. They would all separate the sacred from the secular. They would say that on Sunday we touch the sacred. During the week we are in a profane world and we try to preserve ourselves from evil.


Sadly there are those today who would like to again separate the sacred from the secular. Once upon a time Mass was celebrated in Latin. This engendered a certain sense of mystery, of otherness. The music of chant was aesthetically beautiful. I agree that something has been lost. But something has been found. The scriptures have been opened to us. An active, rather than passive, role has been given to us. The hierarchical distance from the priest who was above all has been bridged by a refinding of community.


What is still missing? What is the wedding garment that some do not wear? I suggest it is an interior life, something not as urgent and important in the old, passive way of worship. At the time of the Second Vatican Council the Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, said that the future Christian would be a mystic or would not be a Christian at all. I believe we now are there. Without a wedding garment on, that is a life of prayer and interiority, the Mass and the church lack real life for us. We do not come to Mass to be entertained though it helps when we have a pleasing  aesthetic experience. We don’t come primarily to hear a good talk, though it helps to be comforted and challenged by a good homily. We come mainly to be in intimate communion with Jesus Christ and through Christ with all others worshipping with us and with all of the body of Christ throughout the world.


Once the church was, for many people, a system of beliefs and rules, to help us get through this life and attain eternal life. Coercion, guilt and social pressure usually attended this approach. But that was missing something. Christianity is about love and relationship, oneness with Jesus Christ in the life of a Triune God, and through Christ with all our brothers and sisters. The wedding garment we need is a life of harmonious union with God, with the earth, with all our fellow human beings.


Jesus wants to sit down and eat with us. There is no question of not being worthy. We are all invited. The Eucharist is the weekly reminder of this invitation given to us so we can become more alert to the divine presence in our human relationships, in our families, in our work, in our work to make this a better world for all.






Fr. Timothy J. Joyce, OSB, STL