Fr Luke Macnamara OSB
Weddings can be a nightmare. Who do you invite to the meal? Who do you invite to the afters? Who do you place beside one another? Who do you place far apart? Even regular meals can be difficult to negotiate when eating with a crowd. Where do you sit in the school refectory, university canteen, or the family dining table when at home? What dictates where you sit? Do you choose to sit with someone or choose to sit apart from someone? There is no choice in the monastery. St Benedict has his monks take their places by date of entry into the community. So at formal meals at Glenstal, you may end sitting next to the same person for 6 decades! A good reason for eating in silence one might add!
The Kingdom of God is likened to a great wedding banquet on the Lord’s mountain. Isaiah says that all our desires will be fulfilled, with rich food and fine wines. Mourning and death will be no more. This is a wonderful vision. Sadly this vision is very far from our current reality where so many families mourn the loss of loved ones, especially in Ukraine and the Holy Land.
There is a catch to this wonderful future vision of the kingdom as a great banquet. We are there at the Lord’s invitation and we do not get to choose the guests. There is no screening to exclude certain people who we would rather not sit beside. Astonishingly, all are invited to the Lord’s banquet, the good and even the bad! Invitations are not dictated by our notions of merit, and that is probably just as well. We begin to discover that our imaginings of the Lord’s mercy fall far short.
This vision contrasts with the reality of the world where so many cannot site at the same table together. However, the vision points to a way forward for us. The future vision of the kingdom, we make a reality every day in a small way when we gather around the one table at home, or in the monastery and school refectories or university canteens. By sharing the table together with people of different personalities, different nationalities, different politics, etc. we anticipate that universal banquet in the kingdom.
We anticipate the kingdom’s banquet in a particular way here at this Mass, where parents, students and staff from both the school and the university with many nations represented all gathered around the one table. Here, the Lord will offer us his peace, a peace that the world cannot give, and yet a peace that he empowers us to give one another. Here, the Lord will provide his body and blood as the true food for life eternal. As we remember the many dead in Ukraine, Gaza, and Israel, we also remember the Lord’s promise that he will destroy death forever. Perhaps our best response to the senseless round of murder and violence is for our families, our class groups, and our communities to be united around the one table and so be beacons for peace in our world. There are many in the world who are too busy to respond to their invitations. We have all been invited to take our place at the table – let us do so now.