I’ve noticed that in movies which focus on Thanksgiving and Christmas the basic underlying motif seems to be the dinner. The celebratory meal has often meant that on festive occasions the dinner is a time for compassion, understanding, and further binding of family relationships if there has been a breach. Most often the process works, but not always. But the attempt is made.
The first reading (Isaiah 25:6-10) for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time is about a banquet. It is often referred to as the “eschatological banquet” which means that it is a promise that things will go well for the Israelites if they keep their covenant promises made at Sinai.
Throughout the Bible, we note that the banquet becomes a principal image for people to gather together and attempt to resolve contentious issues within the context of appetizing food. What is curious about the banquet in today’s reading is the tripartite context that can have meaning for us today. I speak of: Mountain; All peoples; and the Lord as a loving father.
First, the idea of “mountain.” In biblical imagery, the mountain becomes the meeting place between heaven and earth. In this reading the “mountain” refers to Mount Zion (Jerusalem) as the focal religious and social locus of Israelite belief. We note that in the perusal of the Bible, one becomes aware that the “mountain” means that something significant is about to take place. For example, Mount Sinai (covenant between God and the Israelites); Mount of the Transfiguration (some apostles witness the humanity/divinity of Jesus); Mount Calvary (the death of Jesus results in the Resurrection indicating the power of life over death.) On this mountain (Jerusalem) the celebratory banquet will take place.
Second, the phrase “all peoples” occurs in this reading as reflective of the reality that at the “end time” the Israelites will not be the only ones to share in the “eschatological banquet.” There is a sense of openness to others who are not part of the “chosen.”
Thirdly, “the Lord as a loving father.” The prophet presents the Lord as a loving father. He will provide those at the banquet with rich food and choice wines. He will do other things to provide hope to those at the banquet so that the banquet will be a moving experience. This kind of behavior strongly suggests a loving parent.
How can this reading help us to become more reflective of the “eschatological” banquet? I’m sure that several ways are possible, but I would suggest utilizing the same tripartite pattern as above. When we think/hear/read “mountan,” we should see this as the meeting place with God. The major question should be, “What/where is my mountain where can I encounter God?” We know that when and where we find our “mountain” certain things can happen, for example, embracing hope.
Realizing that “all people” would be part of the banquet, should remind us that we have a baptismal responsibility to be of service to them. These people would include the marginalized of our society, especially the poor, sick, and those rejected by others.
The ideal banquet for us Christians would most likely occur neither at Thanksgiving nor at Christmas, but at the Eucharist. Why? Because we would be more conscious of the tripartite division that we note in the reading. Most likely the “mountain” (place of encounter with God) could be the Liturgy of the Word (the biblical readings for the day) or the Liturgy of the Eucharist (an insight into the meaning of what is taking place.)
The concept of “all peoples” would make us aware of the variety of folks present at the Mass, some not in a right relationship with God. Yet, we are all worshipping as family.
God, as “loving father,” could come across in a couple of ways. First, as family we would pray/sing the “Our Father” accepting the reality of that appellation and what it signifies. Secondly, a loving father makes possible the feeding of his children with bread and wine (Eucharist) providing them with nourishment.
My favorite banquet would be the Eucharist at Mass. What would be yours?