LITURGY AND LIFE
BY Tom Saretsky
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
On the Thanksgiving weekend, my youngest niece, Sienna, will be baptized. My wife Norma and I are the godparents, and the weekend promises to be a time for family and a time for a “feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.” We will celebrate Sienna’s new life, and her parents will host a party with a touch of heavenly presence. I can almost taste the good time.
The readings for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time contain rich imagery of tasty foods, clear wines and joyful celebrations. Thanksgiving weekend is a weekend that offers us a foretaste of heaven. In that heaven, God has provided for a party to which all are called to attend and all are expected to celebrate. Properly embracing the times of celebration on earth will better prepare us for the extravagances of heaven.
An irony is contained in the first reading as it is often chosen as a funeral reading. It was my mom’s first reading at her funeral. My mom loved family celebrations, and she was especially fond of drinking wine. Her death was difficult, but the words of Isaiah are particularly consoling: “God will destroy the shroud that is cast over all peoples; he will swallow up death forever.” Death is hard to celebrate and funerals are never really happy occasions, but there is a party that is promised us. Joy and celebration will be assured us as “the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.”
In the second reading, St. Paul writes to the Philippians: “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry.” St. Paul describes what we all experience in our own lives — times of sadness and times of joy. Thanksgiving weekend is an especially nostalgic time for many families. It’s one of those times in the year where absence is keenly felt. This will be the second Thanksgiving without my father-in-law. He was a man who loved to celebrate, and wine was one of his favourite beverages. His presence made us all full, but his absence leaves us achingly empty. We were fed with his love, companionship, friendship and generosity, but we hunger for his presence again. It’s not the same without him, and so we understand what it means to go hungry. However, St. Paul gives us the assurance that “God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” And as the psalmist sings, “We shall not want.”
There is a great celebration in the gospel. The king throws a banquet and invites everyone to attend, but many who were invited had better things to do. There were those who didn’t take the invitation seriously and went back to their business. The distraught king told his servants to invite anyone they could find, to fill the banquet hall with guests. But one of the guests wasn’t wearing the robe of celebration and was subsequently tossed out of the hall. Does this guest sometimes reflect our own attitudes and actions in life?
God, the king, attempts to shake us out of our depressions and despairs by declaring, “Everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet. I have provided for you a feast of rich food and a feast of well-aged wines.” But our other “more important” business takes residence in us and the king, with resignation, admits that, “many are called (to celebrate) but few are chosen (actually do).”
I am looking forward to the baptismal celebration of my new godchild, Sienna. Though my father-in-law won’t be physically present with us, we will celebrate with his heavenly presence and toast to the new life of Sienna. The garments of celebration will be worn, and we will raise our glasses and drink “well-aged wines strained clear,” celebrating new life and renewed hope — a foretaste of heaven.
Saretsky is a teacher and chaplain at Bishop Mahoney School in Saskatoon. He and his wife Norma have two children.