My parish church is quite different in its liturgical set up compared to the typical Catholic parish. The altar and the Sanctuary, for instance, is situated in the middle of the church with all the pews surrounding it in a cross shape. So as you sit in one section you are facing the altar and at the same time can see the face of the people sitting across from you and to your sides. This, in my mind, is a great way of living and expressing our faith in a community. A theological saying that best summarizes it is, We the body of Christ are gathered around the altar to receive the body of Christ. We not only see the body of Christ in the Eucharist but at the same time can see the body of the Christ sitting across and next to us. We are surrounded around the table of the Lord, to partake of the heavenly banquet that he has prepared.
|Another Angle from the balcony.|
As the liturgical year begins to wind-down we begin to hear the parables and readings with rich eschatological themes and theology. All culminating at the feast of Christ the King, which we celebrate as the great feast of our Lord over all the world. Today, is of no exception. We hear Jesus proclaim the parable of the wedding banquet. A father is throwing a wedding party for his son, and he invites people, to which they ignore it. The father sends out more slaves to the invited guests, and they were caught up in the preoccupations and even harmed and kill the slaves. Then the father invites anyone off the street to the banquet, good and bad. But the bad were later kicked out for not wearing the wedding garb.
Here we have Jesus placing the kingdom of God as a banquet for his son. A Banquet as the first reading describes, one of rich foods filled with marrow and well aged wines strained clear. It is here that the key of this Gospel lies: that God is inviting us and is awaiting our response to him.
So often we can become distracted and miss out on this amazing and indeed necessary invite from God. For he is inviting each us personally to join him at the banquet he has prepared, the banquet of a life with him. But yet we can become too centralized on our own personal prosperity, our own work and business or intensely focused on a goal that distracts and takes us away from the Gospel.
God is continuously inviting us to his great feast that he has prepared. Our response forms the foundation of our entire faith life. We can often think that living the Gospel or responding positively to this call requires us to live a life like that of a monk or to have our hands constantly folded in prayer. No, not entirely. When we respond to Gods invitation to be at the banquet, we place our trust in his infinite care and will and allow him to lead us in our life. For St John Paul II put it the best when he said "We come from God, we are of God, and to God we will return" We still live our lives, but with the mentality of God. We are focused on God and living our life and enjoying it, but yet still thinking and acting in a way of Christ.
This leads to the second key of understanding todays Gospel, is the fulfillment of our response. What I mean is this; the invite from God is not any invite, it is an invite the requires an active participation in. Within the context of the parable we hear of the person who was kicked out of the banquet for not wearing his wedding garment. This, some authors have related to being those who responded to the call but did not live it out. The call of God requires us to act in a way that is worthy of it (Ephesians 4:1). When we live a Banquet centered life, a life focused on the great celebration of God, then we not only wear the wedding garb but also live life to it's fullest.
As Christians then, we are called to live a life that is one of celebration and not one of saddness. Pope Paul the VI once said " you cannot advance the Gospel with sad, hopeless, discouraged Christians." Pope Francis has also added that a Christian cannot have long faces, but must be joyful and eager to share the faith. (1)
We are called to the sit at the banquet of Gods love, our response, free yet desired, is important in our life. For God is calling each of us to have a relationship with each of us personally and with us as a whole. This, to me, is the vantage of the layout of my parish; it actualizes the unity of believers focused and centered on Christ, the head. We are called to look at ourselves and examin how we are responding to Gods call, are we avoiding it, are we too busy to find his call or are we constantly searching and constantly living his call?
Father of Immeasurable gladdness,
You alone are the greatest good and the greatest being,
I offer you my day to be protected by your love and grace. I place this day in your loving hands and I strongly trust that anything that shall happen to me this will be according to your will.
Lord I thank you for inviting me to your table, Help me to hear and respond faithfully to your invite. For I desire to be with you for all eternity. My God, Help me to find you in my life at all times and everywhere. Let me be focused on you and you alone.