The Catholic Banquet

Zubaran agnus dei

At Holy Mass on Sunday we will hear a parable from the gospel, about a king giving a wedding feast for his son. The marriage in question involves the Lord Jesus Christ and all our souls, each individual soul. [Spanish]

God made me, and He exercises ultimate control over the entire course of my life. Every day—every moment—involves an invitation. The loving, almighty hand of God lavishly arrays everything that I experience. All for one reason: to communicate love. To give life. To open up the infinite horizon of friendship with Him.

When did Jesus weep? He wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. But that wasn’t the only time. Once, as He approached Jerusalem as a pilgrim, He paused on the hill overlooking the Kidron Valley and the Temple Mount beyond, and He wept. “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone those whom the Lord sends to you. How many times have I longed to gather your children together, like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

God demands my attention, more urgently than anything else. Who has more of a claim on me than He does? My Creator has a right to expect my devoted love.

But… He’s invisible. And so confoundedly silent. He seems aloof. Intentionally mysterious. Is He really, you know—there?

Let’s not forget about the banquet in the parable, the “calves and fattened cattle” that the king prepared for his guests. We do not seek friendship with God in an arid wasteland. We don’t have to invent our own religion, based on our own clever insights. We seek friendship with God at a fully stocked banquet table that He has prepared.

He became man. He gave Himself for us on the cross, and then rose again to minister in heaven as our High Priest. He founded a Church and endowed Her with holy writings and sacraments. He has given us a religion, which allows our friendship with Him to grow through the whole course of our humble lives on earth.

God prepared this banquet of grace, this great, undefinable “thing” that is Christianity, Catholicism. He made it; I didn’t. It’s not for me to understand it all, just like it’s not for wedding guests to know all the recipes for every item on all the banquet tables. My job—our job—is to partake. If I make my own understanding of God the measure of my friendship with Him, forget it. After all, the closer we get to God, the more we realize how little we understand.

What I do or don’t do, what I understand or don’t understand—none of that makes or breaks my religion. Most of us hardly know what we are doing most of the time, anyway. What really matters is that God has intervened in history. He founded a Church.

Now, to be sure, our Church clearly has some serious problems. Also, no one has an obligation to go to Mass right now, because of the virus. But my point is this: the Catholic Church’s fundamental institutions deserve my trust and devotion, because they are the means by which I receive God’s grace. When I trust in the mystery of divine love revealed by Christ, I can partake of the banquet of heaven at the altar. I just need to take my place among all the sinners who need that grace.

The king of the parable really just wants everyone to be happy, but he is utterly demanding in one way. He invites us to the wedding banquet of His only Son, and we must accept. If we fail to accept the invitation, we lose our one chance at finding meaning in life. We accept the invitation by believing—believing in Christ and in the sacraments He instituted, and frequenting the sacraments at the right time, and under the right circumstances, of course, considering the public-health situation we face.

No matter what our particular individual circumstances right now, having to do with the virus, or being suspended from ministry, or whatever might get in the way–the main thing is faith. And hope: looking forward to better days, when we can live the life of the Church together, in peace.

Those days will come. In the meantime, we share in the banquet by believing, hoping, praying, and receiving the sacraments insofar as that is possible.

PS. Happy Feast of Saint Dennis 🙂

St Denis
Statue of St. Denis in Virginia Museum of Fine Art

Who Stocked My Man?!

Before Darth Vader was Darth Vader, he enacted King Lear in Central Park.

…In both of our recent parables, emissaries of the master come to grief at the hands of recalcitrant subjects–and the master flies into rage at such ungrateful defiance.

If you are like me, this reminds you of the fourth scene of Act II of the great masterpiece.

Lear, arriving at Gloucester’s castle, finds his messenger confined in the stocks. Gloucester had warned that the king would not take it well that his man would be treated like a common criminal.

Drama of the most sublime intensity ensues… (You may recognize a prayer or two of Lear’s, or the famous “Reason not the need” speech.)

And guess what? Paul Scofield, sometimes known as Sir Thomas More,* also played King Lear! (And, no, it is not Judi Dench playing Goneril; it’s Irene Worth.)

NB. “A Man for All Seasons:” Greatest movie ever

2. Stay calm while watching clip #2. In the early seventies, they experimented with strange close-ups in a number of Shakespeare-movie productions.

2,011 Years of an Uncommon Era

Last Sunday after Mass someone said to me, “Father, it’s too bad we had to have the Diocesan Appeal. I missed your homily, because I could not make any sense out of that parable about the vineyard and the wicked tenants.”

Perhaps some people are saying to themselves right now, “The parable about the wedding guests makes no sense to me, either. But what are the chances that this joker will be able to explain it?”

Before we get to these parables, I have a couple questions for you.

What year is it?

Continue reading “2,011 Years of an Uncommon Era”

Friend, Come Up Higher

Pretty soon we will be knee-deep in parables.

Here’s a homily from the 2007 archive to enhance our summer-wedding-season experience:

When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place,” and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.

But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher;” then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:7-14)

According to St. Luke, this is a parable. Of course we know that a parable is an image or set of images from everyday life which Christ used to help us to grasp the invisible reality of the Kingdom of God. The Lord’s parables may not be easy to understand, but we can usually recognize one when we hear it.

Why, then, do these words of Christ sound a lot more like good advice than a parable?

Continue reading “Friend, Come Up Higher”

“Ooh. Excuse Me.”

John Catoe and Jim Graham

Now the naked emporer of Metro has quit the throne.

Catoe declared–with apparently no sense of irony whatsoever–that his last day in office will be April 2. That is, Good Friday…

…Eighty-one years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born. Stay tuned for more on this–we will publish an earth-shattering homily tomorrow…

…Solid Hoya victory last night.

But there is no rest for the weary: ‘Nova at high noon on Sunday! Let’s throw down the holy gauntlet and fight for Catholic-school dominance!!

…Now, dear reader: I know that sometimes you say to yourself (while malingering here on this website), “What in the world is this blog really all about? I mean, really! It is just a little too strange.”

Well, I finally found the perfect explanation for all these insufferable posts that I put up here. It explains why they stink.

The explanation comes, of course, from the preaching of our hero and premier hall-of-famer, St. Augustine.

In his sermon explaining the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, he explains how the banquet of Christ is a banquet of faith. Our bodily senses do not perceive it.

As he explains this, he gives the best possible analogy for the preaching ministry, as practiced by your unworthy servant:

We for our part have perceived nothing about the Lord through the outer senses of taste, smell, touch, and sight. We have heard with our hearing and believed with our hearts.

And what we heard did not come from Christ’s own mouth, but from the mouths of His preachers–from the mouths of those who were already dining with Him at His banquet, and invited us to join them by belching their appreciation for the feast. (Sermon 112)

I dine at the banquet of Christ. I eat my fill. I belch. And the rest is weblog history.