“BLESSED ARE THOSE CALLED TO THE BANQUET OF THE LAMB”
First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 22(23)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 15:29-37
The theme of our reflection today is heard from the lips of the priest at every Eucharistic Celebration. This statement should enable us to understand that the Holy Eucharist is the Banquet of the Lamb of God, the fulfilment of the old testament prophecies. This phenomenon makes a lot of sense to us especially in this season of Advent, since the focus of this season is the preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ in His first advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his second advent. Now, how should we understand this invitation to Jesus’ banquet that would take place at the Second Advent (Parousia).
To begin with, today’s first reading records a prophecy concerning the end of the Babylonian captivity when the Jews would return to their devastated homeland from slavery — with a renewal of God’s covenant through a rich banquet: “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.” Here, Isaiah makes it clear that this banquet would be for “all peoples” and goes to assure the Jews that God would wipe their tears and destroy death forever. Thus, through this prophecy of the ‘God’s Banquet,’ the covenant between ‘all peoples’ and God would be renewed and strengthened. This is because, since ancient biblical times, sacred unions of covenants have often constituted feasting/banqueting (see Gen 24:30; 31:54; Ex 24:1-11). Now, how does this prophecy of ‘rich banquet’ find its fulfilment? This prophecy was first fulfilled (immediate fulfilment) when the Jews returned to their homeland. However, it reached its true and final fulfilment through the coming of Jesus – first, at the institution of the Holy Eucharistic banquet at his Last Supper, and with his return in glory at the Parousia.
We should understand that the Eucharist is both a sacrifice and a sacred meal, which is Jesus’ way of establishing God’s New and Everlasting Covenant (cf. Mat. 26:26-28, Mk. 14:22-24, Lk. 22:19-20, 1Cor. 11:23-25). By establishing the New Covenant through the Eucharistic banquet (Sacred Meal), Jesus made His Spouse the Church to be a Eucharistic People by reason of her very origin, pointing towards an end – “the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:6-9)
Today’s prophecy is also foreshadowed in the event of the feeding the 4000 in the gospel reading. Here, Jesus is portrayed as a David-like shepherd who leads His flock to lie down on green grass as He spreads the table of the Messiah’s banquet before them (as described in today’s responsorial psalm – see Psalm 23). Notice that Jesus “wiped away their tears” by healing all those with various kinds of ailment and diseases. After the feast, the scraps remaining were 7 baskets full, this signifies God’s consequent establishment of the Church which would now harbour the Gentiles (7 nations) in covenant with God.
Dear friends in Christ, the final fulfilment of this prophecy of ‘banquet’ is always anticipated in every Eucharistic celebration, as the Vatican II Constitution on Sacred Liturgy rightly puts it: “In the earthly liturgy, we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle…” (SC #8). Therefore, whenever we are gathered for the Eucharistic celebration, we should consider ourselves privileged and blessed to take part in the sacred banquet long foretold which is already a foretaste of the ‘heavenly banquet prepared for us at Jesus’ second advent, where death would be destroyed forever.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?