Saturday, August 31, 2013



Jesus, as we know, was always going to banquets, sometimes with Pharisees and scribes but

more often with tax-collectors and sinners. In his culture, sharing a meal was a sacred act, and so sitting down to eat with someone was a serious statement of your acceptance of that person. So Jesus was constantly being criticized for sitting down to eat with “them.” The Pharisees, those careful defenders of Judaism’s rituals and regulations, were scandalized not only by his actions but by the clear message he was teaching by eating with sinners: “Everyone is welcome in the Kingdom. Everyone!”

The image of the banquet of the Kingdom is one of Jesus’ favorites. But we miss the point if we think that the image refers only to heaven. It seems to me that his image is supposed to serve as a guide to our behavior even on earth, here and now. In the gospel for Sunday Sept.1 Jesus offers this advice to the Pharisee who had invited him to dinner:

“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
(Lk 14:13-14)

So, we’re supposed to be getting in practice now for the heavenly banquet where we’re likely to meet folks of all kinds from individuals we personally dislike to whole categories and races of folks we’ve written off long ago. They’ll be there at the table, Jesus promises us. Or maybe better, “Jesus warns us.”

 I once heard it said that “The heavenly banquet is open to everyone who is willing to sit down with anyone.”  You may ask, “Did you say anyone?” And Jesus would answer you the same way he did his indignant critics who disapproved of his befriending sinners: “Yes, anyone!”     


 This week we commemorated the anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech in which he sounded clear echoes of Jesus’s challenge of universal love among all people. It seems to me that he was inviting us to act on our Lord's vision of the heavenly banquet.

This week was also taken up with an international soccer tournament sponsored by St. Benedict's Prep. Teams from Milan, London, Liverpool, Colombia and Haifa joined teams from Boston and New Jersey and

St. Benedict's. The team from Haifa, Israel, is made up of Jews, Christians, and Arabs. Their orgainizers hope that if the adults in Israel can't figure out how to get along with one another, maybe their kids can. So far the youngsters are doing so very convincingly, and their families seem to be catching on as well. The St. Benedict's team, like our student body,  is made up of students from a variety of ethnic, racial and religious and national backgrounds. So the game between our team and the one from Haifa was quite a an encouraging sight. Dr. King would have loved it.


As Christians we get lots of reminders that our lives on earth are supposed to be getting us ready for the heavenly banquet, we’re supposed to be getting in practice. This came home to me when I read this answer on a test I gave this week. It was written by a sophomore who has been living in the United States for just a couple of years. (I’ll leave his grammar mistakes as they are.)

“When I came from South America to the American culture, it was so different. People worried less about others; there was a lot of selfishness. While in my country there is more happiness in between each other and the class doesn’t get noticed as much because we all work together. American culture shows less love nowadays because of materialistic stuff.”

In this youngster’s opinion, our culture that is so rich in many ways is also the victim of a different kind of poverty (similar perhaps to the kind Dr. King was pointing out?).

So, this week has been good opportunity for me to look at my personal guest list and at the seating arrangements at the table in my own heart. I wouldn’t want Jesus to come to me and say, “Hey, Albert, where’s So-and-So? Why isn’t he at your table?” Oops! 
"The Heavenly Banquet" by Stushie

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