Saturday, 11 October 2014

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

Isaiah 25:6-10; Philippians 4:12-14; Matthew 22:1-14

What is heaven like?

We all have our fantasies but let's not waste time going there because we read in 1 Corinthians 2:9 that when we speak of heaven we are speaking of; things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.

If heaven is beyond the mind of man it must necessarily be beyond the words of man. In other words, heaven is beyond beautiful, fantastic, wonderful, superb or even cool, as the modern youth would say.

Nevertheless, the gospel today does offer us a comparison. I bet you think you know what it is but I bet you are wrong. You are going to tell me that Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast - but let's listen again to what Jesus actually says: The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king; to a king - a king who gave a feast for his son's wedding.

Now don't get me wrong. I enjoy wedding feasts just as much as the next person but to say heaven is like a wedding feast is, for me, too much like saying heaven is like all those essentially self-centred suggestions commonly heard at funerals - heaven is like a pub with free beer, or an endless string of sunny days fishing in Bass Strait.

What makes heaven the beyond-the-human-mind and the beyond-human-language reality it is, is the presence of the king - the King - the King who gave a wedding feast for his Son.

So, that is all simple enough. The Blessed Trinity, God himself, sends out the invitations to heaven, or, if you like, to the wedding feast. He will be the host; the banquet table at which we will be seated is his, and he will preside.

The waiter? As the Gospel of Luke (12:37) tells us: He will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. Our Lord and Master, Jesus himself will serve us.

And the food? Well, here it gets complicated and perhaps you weren't as wrong as I thought. Jesus tells us: My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him (John 6:55-56). The food at the heavenly banquet is the Lord himself - perfect communion with God - and so the King and the Banquet are one.

We cannot understand heaven until we truly understand communion - a oneness with God and one another which no eye has seen and no ear has heard. This is the supernatural reality which is beyond the mind of man, from which flows all peace, joy, and fulfilment.

Nothing defiled will enter there. There will be no enemies, no gossiping, no unforgiveness or feuds. All hearts will be pure; all hearts will be one. All sin will have been banished. We will see God, and one another, face to face, and rejoice.

We are invited to heaven as we are invited to every Sunday Mass - to be together, to be in communion, to be served by Christ with eternal food and drink.

When, incomprehensibly, we refuse God who has prepared a place for us at his table he does not punish us, we punish ourselves. We miss out on all he has made ready for us. We miss out on the 'party', the feast and have to spend eternity outside the Father's house, in the dark.

That would be hell, wouldn't it?

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