28th Sunday of OT year A 2014:
Today we get to hear one of my favorite readings. In fact, this first reading from the Prophet Isaiah is one of the options for the funeral mass. I have often said that I want this reading read at my own funeral mass. Mostly, because it talks about the great banquet of the Lord. Doesn’t it sound amazing: on the mountain the Lord of hosts will provide a banquet full of rich foods and choice wines. You have to imagine that if God, the maker of heaven and earth, was going to throw a banquet, it would be a great feast. Not simply rubbery chicken served in a buffet, but rich foods and choice wines. I love this reading, mostly because I love food. I imagine this feast serving up thick slabs of prime rib, mashed potatoes, and finished with cherry pie. Mmmm, sounds good doesn’t it.
But, no matter how nice that meal sounds, and it sounds great. It pales in comparison to the next promise the prophet conveys. Not only will the Lord set a wonderful banquet for us on the mountain, but next he is going to destroy death. If we start to think about that great feast, it still follows the normal rules of our earthly existence. But, God has much more in store for us than simply a nice meal. Rather, this meal will lead into a new existence. God will destroy death.
No wonder joy follows. It says that God will wipe away every tear. I can certainly see that happening. We get this amazing banquet and God is going to destroy death. No wonder the tears will be wiped away.
It is helpful to remember that this message was proclaimed around 500 years before the time of Christ. So, even before the birth of Christ, the prophet was preparing the people for something amazing: God is preparing to destroy death.
As Christians, we know that Christ is the fulfillment of this prophecy. In Christ, we have the amazing banquet. In Christ, we see death destroyed.
It is easy to see the Cross of Christ as that mountain, that peak where God reaches down to touch the human race. We see Christ lifted up on the cross, standing between God and Man: God reaching down to pull up humanity. On the cross, Jesus destroys death.
Of course, the banquet that Christ gives us is a foretaste of that eternal banquet. This is not a feast of beef and potatoes, but a feast where Christ gives himself to us. Right here in the Holy Eucharist we see this prophecy of Isaiah being fulfilled. Right here on this mountain, the Lord prepares a banquet of rich food and choice wine.
You notice that the folks who designed our Church had the mountain in mind. Notice how the altar is placed on the highest peak in the Church? This is the mountain where God feeds us the banquet of the Eucharist. On this mountain, we live again the saving sacrifice of Christ, where death is destroyed. This mountain helps us to wipe away our tears, helps us to find the strength we need to face whatever life might throw at us.
There are many of us facing difficulties right now: sickness in our families, financial difficulties, sadness, or grief. It seems like the news is always dire: ebola, terrorism, financial uncertainties. It is a good thing we have this mountain. Just as the people of Israel were given hope by Isaiah when he told them about this mountain, when we approach this altar, when we climb this mountain, we find God, we find hope, we find strength. Here we find a place where God wipes away the tears from our eyes. Right here at this altar we can repeat the words of the prophet: “behold our God, to whom we looked to save us, let us rejoice and be glad.”