By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 15 October, 2017
St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
We all receive invitations which we accept and attend, accept and don’t attend, reject or ignore. God also issues invitations and our baptism is one of them. It is an invitation to live a life of Christian discipleship. This invitation is renewed annually during the Easter Vigil liturgy. It is those who choose to accept and remain faithful who will participate in God’s heavenly banquet following the Last Judgment.
The prophet Isaiah gives us an image of this banquet as taking place on the top of a mountain. The guests come from every nation, but what they share is their acknowledgment of God as their Lord and Saviour. For them, death does not disrupt their relationship with God.
This powerful image emphasises that the true people of God are those who choose to be faithful to him. Isaiah is telling his listeners that the true Israel is not limited to the Jewish people, a truth that was forgotten by the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. At the Last Supper, Jesus looks forward to the heavenly banquet and states that those who choose to take up his cross and follow him will participate in it. The Mass we celebrate looks back to the Cross of Jesus and forward to the banquet, encouraging us to persevere to the end.
What makes the Christian Faith distinctive is not so much what Jesus taught, because much of that was not new. It is who he is, namely the one who reveals clearly who God is.
St Matthew’s version of the heavenly banquet is an allegory. God is the king who invites the Children of Israel to the heavenly feast, described as a wedding feast between heaven and earth. God’s first chosen choose to ignore the invitation and even kill some of the prophets, God’s messengers. Other guests, including Gentiles are invited to the feast but before the Judgment, one man without a wedding garment was expelled.
Dress code matters – even in some Aussie pubs, or even a Qantas lounge! In the New Testament, clothing is an image of moral worthiness. That is why the righteous are dressed in white robes in the imagery of the Book of Revelation.
Judgment is passed on us, not on who we are or claim to be, but on whether we have chosen to be faithful disciples. The chosen in this story are not the ones chosen to participate, but the ones who have chosen to be faithful.
We have received our invitation at baptism. Whether we choose to be faithful will determine whether we stay for the heavenly banquet. St Paul tells the Philippians that being a good Catholic Christian is not a ride in the park. They were having a hard time and some were tempted to give up on the Faith. Paul tells them to ‘get real.’ Catholic Christianity is not simply being nice to each other or telling others that God loves them so it doesn’t matter how they live. It isn’t only about having religious rock concerts or being made to feel good about ourselves. Neither is it primarily about righting the wrongs in the world. These things flow from its primary purpose which is to acquire salvation. It is about shifting from the darkness into God’s light; from alienation from God into a deep relationship with him; from being in a state of guilt to knowing we are forgiven, but above all, from being a slave to self-centredness to knowing the freedom of God-centredness.
Salvation is a gift to those who choose to be faithful to the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Your choice determines your participation in the heavenly banquet.
Choices, choices, we make them all the time, but some are far more important than others.
Monsignor Entwistle is the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.