Throughout scripture there are various themes used to convey the message of Jesus. Today the readings center on food and banquets. This theme begins in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah where it is stated: "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 wine". On that same mountain God will destroy the veil that separates people one from another. Death will be destroyed forever. All tears will be wiped from every face as we realize the goodness of God and that it is God who saves us.
We see this theme followed throughout the life and ministry of Jesus; in the story of the prodigal son/daughter; Jesus fishing and eating on the shore-telling the apostles to cast their net on the other side-that is where the fish are; the feeding of the multitudes with a little bread and fish---with 12 baskets of food left over; the last supper where all are included---this is my body given for all; after the resurrection Jesus is recognized in the breaking of the bread with the disciples---they did not recognize Jesus while they were walking together on the road to Emmaus---it was in the breaking of the bread at dinner.
The banquet imagery is a good metaphor for describing God's Salvific Love for all people. Jesus indicated that God's invitation was extended not just to the upright, but was extended to all. A place at the table could not be earned: it was God's to give and if necessary to revoke.
In the reading from St. Paul we are challenged to reassess to whom and to what do we place out allegiance. St. Paul relates that he has lived in both humble circumstances and in abundance; he has learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry. Some people are struggling with what has been the worst recession since the great depression. When the stock market crashed in 1987---24 years ago--- a longtime investor from Miami went to his brokerage office and asked to see his broker and the office manager. When they met in the conference room, the investor took a gun from his brief case and shot them both before killing himself. It seems that money and his investments had become his "god". He thought his financial planners had failed him thus he killed them. It continues to be a challenge for many to sift through the financial markets; not become a person of despair; to recognize that money cannot become your "god" to the point that all else has no value. It is our Christian Faith that tells us that our God will save us from whatever we are faced with in life.
The Gospel of Matthew tells once again of the great wedding feast. This parable is addressed to the chief priests and scribes. The parable challenged their sense of entitlement while offering hope to those who were thought to have no place at the wedding feast of the reign of God. Having prepared the wedding feast for his son, the King (God) sent out servants (the prophets) to call the guests to get ready for the celebration. Some of the invited ones (God's chosen people) mistreated and even killed the servants; this treatment corresponds to the rejection of the prophets and their message.
After the first invited guests refused to attend the banquet the king sent servants (the disciples of Jesus) to gather in all people without discriminating as to their worthiness. Jesus still invites all to the banquet and refuses none. The poor, the sinners, the disenfranchised are all invited to the banquet.
The one mystery in this whole parable is the person who came and was ultimately rejected because he did not have on a wedding garment. How many of the poor and street people have a wedding garment? Perhaps the message is that we all need to accept the gifts we have been given. All of us have been given gifts to be used for the building up of the community. By rejecting the use of what God has given us we reject God and God's importance in our life.
Today we celebrate the baptism of Nathan O'Shea. Jesus will welcome Nathan to new Life. We all have been welcomed to this same new life in Christ. As we pray that Nathan will grow in wisdom before God, may we reflect on how we have used our gifts God has freely given to us. We all have been called to the banquet prepared for us-everything separating us will be removed; death will be destroyed forever; all our tears will be wiped away; new life will begin; no one will be excluded; everyone will be included; send back your R.S.V.P. Let us come to the banquet Jesus has prepared for us. Let us enjoy and give thanks.