Jesus and feasting go together! Jesus frequently gathered with people around the table to enjoy good food and wine. The conversations around the table led to lessons by Jesus that would reveal truths about himself or human nature. Jesus’ first recorded miracle was at a wedding feast. He revealed his compassion and his power for the guests at that table. Jesus multiplied bread and fish for feasts that fed thousands of people. At one of those feasts, he declared that his body is the bread of heaven, and all who eat it are welcome at the table in God’s Kingdom. The last night with his disciples before his arrest, was spent around a table where they celebrated the Passover Feast–Lamb, bread, and wine. He instituted the Feast of the Eucharist when he broke bread with them and shared the wine:
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
The Gospel according to St. Matthew 26:26-29
On the evening of the day of his resurrection, he revealed himself to two of his followers at their table while breaking the bread; he blessed the bread and gave it to them. They immediately recognized Jesus as he broke the bread and blessed it!
They urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…
The Gospel according to St. Luke 24: 29-31a
After his Ascension into heaven, his holy Spirit descended on his followers while they celebrated the Feast of Pentecost!
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…
The Acts of the Apostles 2:1-4a
The book of The Revelation to St. John includes a vision that reveals Jesus feasting around a table with his followers. St. John is instructed by the angel that accompanied him to write these words, Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready;
to her, it has been granted to be clothed
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
The Revelation to St.John 19:6b-9a
What is Jesus up to with all that feasting? Is it the food, or is it the event? Well, it’s both. It was just like him to use the stuff familiar to us to reveal how God’s Kingdom may “come on earth as it is in heaven.” St. Luke draws our attention to a few feast conversations in his gospel (14:7-24), and considered together they foreshadow the eternal feast of heaven: The Marriage Supper of the Lamb. It seems that Jesus wants us to rehearse feasting with the proper attitude and understanding so that we may be allowed through the doors of heaven to take our place at the table of that feast.
Rehearsal includes three things necessary for receiving an invitation to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. We are to practice humility and hospitality, and finally, we are to practice readiness.
The way Jesus wants us to rehearse humility and hospitality is evident in the first lesson (St. Luke 14:7-14): obey his command to love our neighbor as ourselves. The last lesson is known as the Parable of the Great Banquet; a festal feast (St. Luke 14:15-24). Festal feasts have extraordinary religious symmetry; they symbolize covenant communion with God and others. In the parable, Jesus describes himself at once as the host of the feast, and as the servant sent to gather everyone in for the covenant communion around his table.
The Great Banquet foreshadows the worship of the Mass as a celebration of covenantal communion. The worship of God in the Mass is quite literally a rehearsal for The Marriage Supper of The Lamb in eternity. We join the great multitude of the faithful who have departed this earthly kingdom. We enter into the conversation around The Table of Christ’s Sacrifice, listening to his Word and humbly responding through prayer, confession of our sins against God and others, and receiving Christ’s body and blood, soul and divinity in The Eucharistic Feast! The worship of The Mass on earth is where we receive Christ as Host and Suffering Servant
[Christ Jesus] emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:7-11
All of life is sacramental in that everything that happens to us and around us becomes an offering of thanksgiving when we offer it to our Lord. The mundane and ordinary is a rehearsal of humility and hospitality where we reveal Christ to others in our attitudes and actions. We are practicing readiness before God through obedience to his command to love others as we love ourselves. How is rehearsal going for you, friend? Do you faithfully worship God in The Mass, or are you skipping out for the fast and easy worship of this earthly kingdom? The Good and Gentle Host and Servant invites us to come to him, to eat and drink of him as he is made present in the worship of the Mass. He paid the price for our seat at this table with his body and blood. Will you accept the invitation?