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Monday 13 October 2014

THANKSGIVING - “On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for the people a feast.”

 The annual celebration of Thanksgiving in North America arises from our desire to give thanks to God for providing "the fruits of the earth" as they are termed in the Offertory Prayers at Mass. Our Lord’s parable in the Gospel today (Matthew 22:1-14) is an outline of God’s provision for eternity – our salvation history. 

In the Parable, God is the king (Matthew 5:35), Jesus is the bridegroom (Matthew 9:15), the feast is the salvation that Isaiah prophesies in today’s First Reading. The Israelites are those first invited to the feast by God’s servants, the prophets (see Isaiah 7:25).

For refusing repeated invitations and even killing God's prophets, Israel has suffered; its cities have been conquered by foreign enemies and the nation has, at times, been enslaved.

Through all this, as the Gospel affirms here and elsewhere, God has been sending new servants and now apostles, to call not only Israel, but all people – the good and bad alike – to the feast of the Kingdom of God. 

This is an image of the Church.  In other parables, Jesus speaks of a field sown with both wheat and weeds, or the Church as a fishing net that catches good and bad fish. (Matthew 13:24-43, 47-50)
In the parable today, all are invited, but many reject, ignore or scoff at the grace of the King who invites them.  What do we make of this?

Two things at least:  Salvation is intended for all.  Secondly, we must choose to accept the invitation to grace.  What we need to show acceptance is a wedding garment – a thankful and responsive heart.

We have all been called to this great feast of love and thanksgiving for it is in the Church, where, as Isaiah foretold, the veil that once separated the nations from the covenant of Israel has been rent, torn open, the dividing wall of enmity has been torn down by grace through the saving blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-14).

This means that all people are equal in the sight of God and so all are invited to the feast, but we must accept and prepare for the feast – put on a wedding garment i.e. present ourselves as guests – those who have received and responded to the gracious invitation of God by both the conformity of our lives to the grace of God and our acceptance of other guests who are there by the same grace which comes from God and not by any merit that we may think we have.

St. Francois de Laval (bishop) and St. Marie de L’Incarnation (educator) were remembered in Rome by Pope Francis at a Thanksgiving Mass. They are amongst the messengers and guests of God’s grace.

As Psalm 23 affirms the Lord has led us to the feast, refreshing our souls, spreading the table before us in the Eucharist – the true feast of Thanksgiving. And St. Paul tells us in today’s Epistle with the glorious riches of Christ, we will find supplied whatever we need – both a wedding garment and the grace to love all others who are also invited to the Feast.

In the rich food of Christ’s banquet, he offers us the bread of his own body and the choice wine – his blood. Here we have a foretaste of the eternal banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem, when God will destroy death forever (Hebrews 12:22-24). Are we ready, dressed for the feast, clothed in the garment of righteousness? (Revelation 19:8)

“On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for the people a feast.”

Isaiah 25:6-10 Psalm 23:1-6  Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20  Matthew 22:1-14

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