by Ken Rolheiser
Eating the bread in the Kingdom

There is an unusual challenge in the parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-20). It has to do with life and death and food and drink.

“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. …he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. ‘I have just bought a field…’, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen...’, ‘I just got married…’”

Then the master of the house sent his servants to invite the poor, the crippled and the lame and even to force people to come from the lanes and roads so that his table would be filled.

Later the Master said that not one of the guests he first invited will get to taste even a bite of his food. Now that sounds harsh. But hold on!

Our God is the Father in the Prodigal Son story. He waits by the road daily and watches for us to return. Ann Graham Lotz writes, “…our God is the God of the second chance, the slim chance, the no chance and the fat chance.”

So far, that is nothing new, but it is a good reminder of God’s love that we sometimes forget about. Now what was my inspiration about the Great Banquet?

The banquet of the Lord is taking place right now. We choose to attend or not to attend every Sunday morning. Our excuses are many: I’m too busy; I just got married; I need to finish this project; and you know the rest.

To be in communion with Jesus is not something for the afterlife. It is right now! We belong or exclude ourselves right now. And it goes beyond just attending. Jesus implores us to be his servants and to go out and invite everyone, especially the lowly and the poor.

The foolish love of the Father wants us to invite many of the people we wouldn’t expect to see at the banquet. We will be surprised in heaven when we join in the feast. But there is an immediate concern here and now.

Tasting and sharing the banquet of heaven prepares us for the week ahead where we can be Christ to others and already join in that Kingdom the Father has prepared for us. It is the kingdom of love. You don’t have to die to join it.

It is very puzzling that many stop coming to the table. “I don't understand it. I really don't,” Father Brendan McGuire says. They say, “I’m not going to eat tonight; I ate last week!” Some ate last Christmas! We need spiritual nourishment every day: “Give us this day our daily bread”.

This time of year some say, “It’s too cold. I’d rather just rest today.” What about the need for spiritual food and drink. An analogy comes to mind.

As a boy on the farm, when the temperature was forty degrees below zero, we followed the ritual of feeding and watering the livestock. We would chip ice out of the frozen trough. We would pour boiling water into the pump to thaw it. Then we would pump water for the cattle and horses that hastened from the barn and hurried back to it after an icy drink.

Just as physical life requires food and drink, Spiritual life requires nourishment.

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