I love today’s first Mass reading from Isaiah. Although there are not many scriptural passages of longer than a few verses that I can recite from memory, this is one of them. I learned it before proclaiming it in 2003 at the Mass of Transferral for my dear friend Fr. Don Shane. We used the same passage later that year for the funeral mass for my father. Isaiah writes:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, The web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!” For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.
I think it is more than the actual promise itself that affects me so powerfully in this passage – the promise that, notwithstanding all the suffering and all the tears, God ultimately will make all things well.
The promise, of course, is what gives us hope. But I think the affective power of the passage comes from the imagery. We, of course, have no idea what heaven will look like, what total and perfect union with God will be like. So Isaiah gives us the beautiful feast image, the vision of God setting before us this amazing banquet designed for our happiness and replacing our tears with joy and gladness. I hear the words of the passage and I can feel the fullness and the joy. I love to just sit with that feeling, letting the power of God’s love and promise wash over me.
Today’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew, however, reminds us that there is a catch. In the parable of the king who gave a wedding feast for his son, Jesus tells his disciples that many invited to the feast will make excuses for why they can’t come. Family affairs, matters of business, other distractions.
We’ve all been invited to the banquet. But it is up to us to decide whether to accept the invitation.