14 October 2011

We All Scream for Ice Cream!

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
            On a warm, fall day, as today will be, there’s nothing quite like getting a little ice cream to cool down; to walk into a parlor and then choose a flavor that will explode in your mouth at the same time that it cools you down.  But then, there’s the real dilemma: what flavor is best?  What flavor do you want today?  Luckily, many places give you a little spoon with a small helping of the different flavors to figure out which one you want.  They give you a little taste.
            What we are engaged in right now is a small plastic spoon of the good things to come.  No, we’re not providing ice cream for you today after Mass.  But our readings all talk about a great feast that is to come.  Isaiah talks about the mountain of the Lord where there will be “a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.”  Our Responsorial Psalm mentions how the Lord will “spread the table before me.”  And in our Gospel passage we hear Jesus talking about how God is preparing a wedding feast and inviting people to that feast.  These images of the feast all refer to heaven, the goal for which hopefully we’re all striving.  If we are faithful disciples and live according to God’s law of love of Him above all else and our neighbor as ourselves, than we can look forward to enjoying heaven, as one enjoys a sumptuous feast or a nice, cold, ice cream cold on a hot day.
            But, getting back to what I said earlier, we don’t have to wait until heaven to start to experience this feast.  We get a foretaste of the feast of heaven in the Mass.  Our Mass is that little taste of ice cream that you get to make sure you know what you want.
            Think about the first reading again.  Isaiah first talks about the mountain of the Lord.  A mountain is a high place that is visible for all in the surrounding area to see.  Our churches are usually built at an elevated level, or with high steeples to stand, like a mountain, in the midst of the world.  And even if the exterior structure is not built up for all around to see, as we enter into the Church space, the nave, our eyes should immediately go to a raised area, the sanctuary, which stands in a particular way as the mountain of the Lord, a reminder of the mount of Calvary, where the one perfect sacrifice took place, that same sacrifice which is re-presented for you today.  It is that sacrifice on that mountain, made present once more for us now, that destroys the veil that veils all people and destroys death forever.  This sanctuary is the mountain of the Lord, where God reveals Himself, just as He did on Mount Sinai, as the people gather at its base to worship Him.
            This is also where the Eucharistic Table, the Altar, is prepared.  This is where the best food, the choicest wine, the Eucharist, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ is prepared under the appearances of bread and wine.  Christ Himself, through me, His minister, prepares the feast for the People He has won by His Blood and made His own.  He sets the table before us, even though, by our sins, we have made ourselves enemies of God.  Christ receives the bread and wine we offer, simple gifts, really, and changes them so that they are no longer bread and wine, but are substantially changed into His Body and Blood, and not just for this liturgy, but afterwards as well.  This is the feast on the mountain of the Lord.  This is the wedding feast to which we are invited.  In late November, when we start using the spoken words of the new translation, we’ll have the opportunity to see this more clearly.  Because while the priest currently says, “Happy are those who are called to his Supper” as the Body and Blood of Christ are shown to the people, in Advent of this year the priest will say, “Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb,” an allusion to Revelation 19:9, referring to the wedding feast that the Bridegroom, our Bridegroom, Jesus, has prepared for us, His Church, His Bride.
            Here, in this feast of faith, this Mass, we come together, those of us in humble circumstances, those of us in abundance; those of us are well fed, and those of us who are hungry; and we unite in our worship of God.  We receive the grace to do all things in Christ, who strengthens us, as God supplies our deepest need for His love and His presence among us.
            But, we need to come properly dressed.  And while I do think we can always examine if we’re giving our best to God in terms of what we wear, I’m not talking about exterior clothing.  In baptism, we all heard, even if we don’t remember it, “you have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ.  See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity.  With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”  How are we doing at keeping that interior baptismal garment pure white?  Are we helping our family and friends to keep it that way?  Are they helping us to keep it unstained?  That is the proper wedding garment of the elect, those chosen by God.  Just as we wouldn’t show up for a wedding celebration in sweatpants, hair all disheveled, dirt on our face, so we should approach this feast with the interior wedding garment a pure white, a sign of our response to the grace of God and the avoidance of sin.  And if we get a few spots on that garment from sin, we have the great sacrament of reconciliation to wash that garment clean once more in the blood of Christ and to reunite ourselves to His grace.  Between our two sites here, we offer 6 different opportunities for reconciliation, and we priests will gladly set up a different time if none of those times work.
            We have been invited to the mountain of the Lord, to the feast of heaven in this Mass.  May we keep our baptismal garments clean for the wedding feast of the Lamb, so that we might be invited in.  Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.