“You have Prepared a Banquet for Me in the Sight of my Foes”
During Advent we celebrate the coming of the Kingdom of God. It helps to recall that the word Advent is from the Latin ad (to) and venire (come), which translates into “to come to.” To whom does it come? To us. What is coming? God’s Kingdom. It is what we pray in the Our Father: “Thy Kingdom come!”
God’s Kingdom has come to us in two stages, and we await the third. The first is announced by the prophets of the Old Testament and is well illustrated in today’s reading from Isaiah (Is 25:6-10). In it, the Prophet announces that God is preparing His Kingdom for us. He describes it as a great banquet. We’re not there yet, says Isaiah, but be assured, the banquet will come. Commenting on the passage, scripture scholar Daniel Harrington, S.J., wrote in America Magazine some time ago:
[Isaiah] pictures God’s Kingdom as a grand banquet with “a feast of rich food and choice wines.” In a society in which such food and drink were in short supply, the image was powerful. The one who supplies this extraordinary meal is “the Lord of hosts,” and it is open to “all peoples.” It takes place on “this mountain,” most likely the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which itself was an image of God’s dwelling place. At this banquet God will destroy death, end all suffering and bring about salvation. At this banquet the hopes of God’s people will be fulfilled.
What Isaiah describes is what God’s Kingdom will be in its fullness. It will be a while before we sit down at the banquet, but we know we are invited to it, and that gives us Hope. Before the feast, though, God calls us all to do our own preparation, which takes place in the second stage of God’s coming Kingdom.
This second stage begins when the Word of God is made flesh to dwell among us. He inaugurates God’s Kingdom and establishes it. Today’s gospel (Mt 15:29-37) takes up Isaiah’s image: In this stage, which is our stage now, the banquet of God’s Kingdom is at hand. It is set before us, within reach, and like the apostles we are called to serve it up to the thousands He sends us to, and to take on His work of healing and forgiving whenever and wherever we can. As we do so, we ourselves begin to taste and see the goodness of the Lord: in the Eucharist, in companionship with one another, in service to the poor, and in responding to Christ’s call to join Him by spreading God’s Kingdom and with Him work towards its completion. The way we do this is also described and exemplified in today’s gospel:
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.
So in this second stage, we respond to Our Lord’s call, by spreading the news he told the huge assembly on the mountain, by helping Him feed the thousands of our own milieu, and by joining Him in the work of healing, forgiving, and serving them.
This is our job until the end of time, when the third stage of God’s Kingdom comes to pass: the moment when Christ Our Lord, through us, with us, and in us completes the establishment of the Kingdom and brings us all to the banquet table where we will be able to satisfy our hunger and thirst to the full.
At that feast, Isaiah’s promise is fulfilled, not just for the Jews but for all of us, and the future we anticipate in this present life will become for us God’s own eternal now. In it, our salvation is accomplished. The best food and drink for body and soul is served. Ignorance , error, fear, suspicion, and hostility of peoples to one another disappear. Death is destroyed forever. Consolation for past suffering floods our hearts. Reproach is seen as a thing of the past. We forever hold one another in the highest esteem. We taste and see directly that the Lord is indeed good, and that the Kingdom of God is no longer just at hand, but has arrived – has at last come.
Creighton University Daily Reflection