Feasts were and are important events in both the old and new testaments. In the first reading Isaiah uses the image of a banquet of rich food and fine wine to described the joys and the happiness of heaven. Jesus’ last meal with his friends was the celebration of the feast of liberation – the Passover meal.
This weekend invitations will be going to family and friends to come and share a meal as we celebrate this Thanksgiving weekend. The States celebrate their Thanksgiving in November and it is the busiest travel time of the year, out doing Christmas.
I want you pretend with me for a minute. You are grandparents and you want to host the family thanksgiving dinner this year. You may feel you won’t have the health or the energy to do it in the years to come and you want to make this a special event. You call your sons and daughters and all the grandchildren and their families. You want this to be a special event. On Thanksgiving Day people show up with salads and desserts and flowers and they begin to mix it up and enjoy one another’s company. Near the beginning of the meal a grandson arrives. He is unshaven, unwashed and has an attitude. The tone of the party changes. He is like the elephant in the room, everyone pretends not to notice but he is there. What to do?
You don’t quite know what to do. You are upset, disappointed and confused by your grandson’s behavior. As gently and as quietly as you can would you take him aside and do what the host of gospel story did? Would you let him know his behavior and his attitude is offensive, unacceptable – would you ask him to leave? His appearance and his attitude lets you know he doesn’t want to be a part of this family gathering and you have to wonder why he came. The whole family was invited and welcomed, – but how a person shows up indicates how important or meaningful is the event and the invitation to him or her.
We are all invited to the banquet of life and love that is ours in the family of the church. The question is, are we dress for the occasion. Everyone is invited – but how one shows up indicates how important or meaningful was the event and the invitation.
St. Augustine tells us that the wedding garment we are all to wear is love. St. Paul tells that without love we have nothing at all, no matter whatever gifts with which we are blessed. He writes to the community in Corinth, ‘If I do not have love then I am nothing at all ‘Paul encourages them to be clothed in love. Love requires that we respect and accept the dignity and worth of ourselves and of every person who comes into our lives. Love is dress code for membership in the church. Love is the dress code required of us at every Eucharist.
It is a hard dress code to keep as we rub shoulders every day with people who are twisted by bigotry and prejudice. It is a difficult dress code to keep as we are tempted to demonize other people’s faith because the horrible actions of fringe groups in their membership. We may be tempted to slip into the clothing of ‘conditional love’ which allows us to be open and accepting of those who agree with us, hold our theological or political views but annoyed and challenged by those who call us to be more aware of and sensitive to the needs of the hungry and the homeless and the neglected aged within our own community. Wearing our clothing of ‘conditional love’ allows us to be annoyed and wearied with people who remind us of the struggles of the working poor, the under employed, the unpaid interns.
Maybe we could all use a dry cleaning of our wedding garments, especially through a self – examination of our awareness and concern about what is going on around us, within our families, our neighbourhood, our parish. We might rid ourselves of the stains of avoidance of issues, stains of indifference, stains of resistance to be involved in the social issues of our church and community.
Every Mass we celebrate is an invitation to the banquet that celebrates our Father’s love for each of us shown in the passion and death of Jesus on the altar of the cross. The dress code for properly and truly celebrating this banquet is that we be clothed with the same love for others as Christ has for each of us here today. As we continue to celebrate this Mass we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we always be properly dressed for this celebration.