Sunday Scripture Readings




Isaiah 25: 6-10; Psalm 23;

Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14

OUR GOOD NEWS: God invites us to his heavenly banquet. Invitations are free, but we must be properly prepared. No coronation ceremony is complete without a royal banquet; and God's kingdom, when at last it comes in fullness, will be the most lavish of all. The Bible's favorite image for life in the heavenly kingdom is a glorious banquet given by God at which all nations (not just selected guests) celebrate in his honor. This party will be catered with no regard for expense: "the richest food" - fatty delicacies especially prized by protein-hungry, undernourished persons - and "well-matured wines, strained clear" only at the last minute for maximum flavor. Ordinary foods promote life, and liquor creates pleasant, relaxed feelings (a virtuous indulgence according to St. Thomas Aquinas). Heavenly fare bestows eternal life and eschatological joy upon guests who eat and drink at God's mountaintop banquet. This celebration echoes and fulfills the banquet of Israelite elders before the Lord on Mount Sinai, a gesture ratifying the covenant binding God to his specially Chosen People. The final-age banquet, however, includes all pagan nations ("peoples") of the world. Their representatives will have come in pilgrimage to Mount Zion to join in celebrating Israel's as well as their own salvation. Only when the whole world lives in fellowship can God be properly honored and his gift of peace become permanent reality. Twice Isaiah assures us that death, pictured in ancient mythology as a great dragon monster feeding upon the living, will itself be "swallowed up" by God. The Lord of life will "swallow up the Swallower!" Since mourning will cease, God will destroy symbols worn by those who grieve, the "veil" and "pall." In a tender, motherly image where uncovered faces show traces of tears, God will "wipe them all away." He takes away the cares of all who gather to celebrate his worldwide rule, but universal love won't hinder a special show of affection for his Chosen People. By removing their "reproach" - shame and suffering occasioned by exile - he would vindicate their name. The whole world will then see how mistaken its contemptuous estimate of Judaism had been. Isaiah concluded his visionary description with toasts of grateful banqueters - truly an occasion to "rejoice and be glad" in the presence of Him to whom they looked in desperation to save them. The same hand once laid upon Israelite and Gentile alike in deserved punishment will one day rest upon the mountaintop assembly of guests, bestowing the ultimate in gifts - fullness of life, forever. There we will celebrate the death of death, along with everything else hindering full and happy lives. Especially, honored at the banquet will be those who proved faithful in trial. The salvation God plans for us exceeds human imagining, but - as the Gospel illustrates - many show indifference or respond with base ingratitude. Right living doesn't earn us an invitation into God's Kingdom, but shows our appreciation for this rare privilege.

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