We are guided by two (if not many more) powerful images of the banquet in this weekend’s scriptures. First, from chapter 25 of the prophet Isaiah who proclaims, “On that Holy Mountain there will be a feast of rich food and choice wine. The Lord’s mountain will destroy the veil that separates people and our tears will be wiped away. It is there that we will encounter the Lord whom we looked to save us and the Lord’s hand will rest on that mountain—that holy mountain.” When we hear the words holy and mountain together we may immediately think of the beautiful song from Joe Mattingly that states, “The wolf is the guest of the lamb, the calf and the lion… together they shall rest with a child, on that Holy Mountain of the Lord. No harm or ruin…on that Holy Mountain. There shall be peace led by all the children…on that Holy Mountain.” Mattingly wrote that song guided by the passage from the 11th chapter of Isaiah, so we see that the image of this mountain’s banquet is rich indeed for the prophet Isaiah.
These passages speak of unity, hope and innocence. The image of the banquet from this week’s Gospel of Matthew is different. He speaks of a king who hopes to hold an elaborate banquet for his son who is getting married. He has a select invitation list but unfortunately none of the invitees (those who think they have a special inside track to God) attend, even at repeated urgings from his servants. Similar to the past couple of weeks’ Gospels, there then is a violent, even murderous response from the king, and finally any and all people, even homeless, are invited to the banquet, and, in fact, attend the wedding feast. One man is not properly dressed for a wedding and is thrown out.
This seems really unfair—how can a homeless person possess attire appropriate for a wedding? Among the many morals of this story, I believe that we are strongly urged by this passage to put on the attire of attitude and action once we are invited to the feast. Throughout our lives we may receive unexpected invitations to do the right thing or to look at circumstances differently. Do we always have the attitude to embrace the invitation? The unexpected? Are we sometimes reduced to silence, like the improperly dressed guest, when asked why we might have the wrong attitude? Are we silent when we should stand up for someone or something, particularly when it is unexpected or takes us by surprise? Just because we are invited to the banquet doesn’t guarantee that we will feast on its delicious fair. Many are called, less are chosen.
There is an obvious connection with the Eucharist and all of the above images. Gathering to celebrate the Eucharist is our most sacred ritual because it reminds us of who we are. We are not at the banquet alone and the gathering can bring us solace and comfort as the Lord’s hand rests upon us and calls us to peace. But it is also very sacred, because it challenges us to reflect on stories that are not always fair or have a moral that we may struggle with. Jesus invites us unconditionally, but, as I said last week about the vineyard, we can’t simply enjoy the wine (the product of the vineyard); we must work in the various roles of the vineyard that produces the wine.
I have been on quite an odyssey the past three weeks, and, even though difficult at times, there have been many blessings that have blossomed. I was very fortunate to be able to hold my Dad’s hand as he died. I consider myself blessed many times over to have been able to do the same as my mom passed away on September 17. All five of us boys, my sisters-in law and some of my nieces and nephews were with my mom in her final two days and her final hours. In the wake of her passing, I have such tender memories of her love, her character and her spirit. What a blessing. In her own words, she was a Jewel.
I once again wish to convey my heartfelt thanks to the Holy Family Catholic Community, to each of you, who showed me, my family and my friends such compassionate hospitality and support during my mom’s death, wake, funeral and beyond. Your kindness and compassion will never be forgotten. To our staff who helped to plan her funeral, sing her songs and celebrate her life—your presence with me was a true statement of team work and community. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!!
I know that you received a lot of detail two weeks ago in this space about the very good news of Holy Family Catholic Academy receiving the National Blue Ribbon, but I want to once again thank our principal, Kate O’Brien, our faculty, staff, students and parents for making Holy Family such a unique place that cultivates “Thinkers and Leaders, Grounded in Faith” every day. I hope that you noticed the many blue ribbons, pinwheels and other blue ornaments on our campus in recognition of this award. We have much to be proud of here, and may this award inspire us to grow even stronger in the future.
Next weekend we will present the annual report of Holy Family Catholic Community to all of you. Every fall we share with you a picture of where we are in terms of carrying out our mission and caring for the many blessings that God has given us. Using the image of the vineyard that is prevalent throughout the scriptures, Holy Family is the vineyard. It belongs to God, but we must all work together to make it fruitful. Please be attentive to the report and the details and the invitation to make Holy Family a more fruitful vineyard—an even Holier Family.