Table scraps

| Father Charles Lachowitzer | October 8, 2020 | 0 Comments

Oftentimes, there is a Gospel passage that is in my thoughts and prayers long after I have preached on it. Lately, it has been the Gospel about the Canaanite woman whose daughter was “tormented by demons” (Mt 15:21-28).

This Gospel for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time challenges our image of Jesus. In my homily, I provided a background for where Jesus was traveling and to whom he was speaking. From there, his seemingly dismissive words and subsequent magnanimity were better understood.

Father Charles Lachowitzer

Father Charles Lachowitzer

Yet my continued meditations on this Gospel have been about a vision of heaven. So many descriptions come to mind: pearly gates, streets of gold, stately mansions, trumpeting angels with the choirs of angels. Theologically, the meeting of Jesus Christ, face to face, the beatific vision, is a more poignant image of heaven.

As an imperfect people in an imperfect world, heaven is the perfection of who God created us to be. Delivered, saved, redeemed and welcomed into eternal life in the company of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the communion of saints and the faithful departed. It is not about how heaven looks. It is about how we look.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI preached in his 2007 Christmas homily this image of heaven: “Yet if we believe that God is located in the heavens, meaning in the highest parts of the world, then the birds would be more fortunate than we, since they would live closer to God. Yet it is not written: ‘The Lord is close to those who dwell on the heights or on the mountains,’ but rather: ‘the Lord is close to the brokenhearted’ (Ps 34:18 [33:19]), an expression which refers to humility …”

“Heaven does not belong to the geography of space, but to the geography of the heart, and the heart of God, during the Holy Night, stooped down to the stable: The humility of God is heaven. And if we approach this humility, then we touch heaven.”

To have an image of heaven as God’s humility is to recognize, with humility, the heaven that is already here in the sacramental life of the Church. First and foremost, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the celebration of the Eucharist, the Most Sacred Body of Christ and his Most Precious Blood, is the top of God’s mountain and the very source of our daily sustenance to live out our faith with great hope and much love.

Nevertheless, what is our image of heaven when the greatest miracle on earth, the person and real presence of Jesus Christ in simple bread and wine, are but table scraps when compared to the eternal banquet of heaven? In physical matter, that little host would hardly be noticed if it fell from the tables of this world. But in the spiritual world, this mere piece of bread is not only noticed, but adored.

I have wondered what it would have been like if the Mass were in the image of this world’s feasts. Parishes would have kitchens the size of one of those cruise boats. No doubt the attendance at Sunday and daily Masses would rival a county fair.

If the Eucharist is but table scraps when compared to the eternal banquet of heaven, then our image of heaven is far beyond pearly gates, golden streets and the mansions of popular imagination. With a little faith, I imagine that those fortunate to be welcomed to eternal life with Christ will find one great banquet table. Imagine sitting at table with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the communion of saints, all the faithful departed and Christ himself. It is the greatest of all family reunions! We actually do this at every Mass, but in heaven, the person sees what in this life is unseen.

As we pass from this world to the new world of eternal life, enduring the purgation of our old earthly selves, we take nothing with us except what is in our minds and hearts. At that great banquet table of heaven there is no earthly food served. Everyone brings the fruits of their own lives and shares these with all at table. That’s quite a feast.

Inspired by this Gospel on “table scraps,” I have a new image of the heavenly banquet: It will be potluck.

Las sobras de la mesa

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Category: Only Jesus