There is an aspect of Holy Thursday which presents itself as the Heavenly banquet. Last Holy Thursday, our Holy Father pointed out that Christ talks about banquets several times, and we immediately notice that he points out shortcomings regarding the guests, both those attending and those invited. There is the parable in which many invited guests are absent at the great banquet, their seats are bare. These could be thought to be: people who have not taken up the Christian message preached to them. There are people refuse to be as close to God as they should, who refuse to know Jesus as well as they should.
Or, it could be thought of from the other end, the people who have not really ever heard the Gospel because of:
Shortcomings in the people who were meant to invite them.
Shortcomings in the manner of invitation which these people gave.
The Pope also points out that Christ knows full well that there are people who arrive expectantly at the banquet. But due to their lack of preparation, they who are not robed in wedding garments, are turned away. Some Fathers of the Church said that this wedding garment was the Holy Spirit. St Gregory the Great said it was love, and that faith brings us to accept the invitation, however, without the wedding garment, we will not be permitted to take part.
Another aspect of the heavenly banquet, that Christ knew we are always at risk of falling short of, is unity. Perhaps that is why Christ made such pains to pray that his disciples would be one, which is most clear in the account of the Last Supper according to John. Yet it is in Luke’s account we find that Christ directs himself towards Peter specifically in his prayer for unity (Lk 22:31-32). Unity must be had, in order for this to really be the Eucharist that Christ has established, but it cannot be an empty unity, it must be unity with Peter and his successors, or else Satan will have already indulged his wish to sift us like wheat.
This is a hard thing for us to do. The Pope comments: “We too, all of us, need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be. We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers. We too do not want to accept that he is powerless in this world. We too find excuses when being his disciples starts becoming too costly, too dangerous. All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master. Tonight we want to ask Jesus to look to us, as with kindly eyes he looked to Peter when the time was right, and to convert us.
After Peter was converted, he was called to strengthen his brethren. It is not irrelevant that this task was entrusted to him in the Upper Room. The ministry of unity has its visible place in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Dear friends, it is a great consolation for the Pope to know that at each Eucharistic celebration everyone prays for him, and that our prayer is joined to the Lord’s prayer for Peter. Only by the prayer of the Lord and of the Church can the Pope fulfil his task of strengthening his brethren – of feeding the flock of Christ and of becoming the guarantor of that unity which becomes a visible witness to the mission which Jesus received from the Father.”
I think there are some good resolutions to take out of these reflections:
1) Earnestly attempting to hurry to accept the invitation to the banquet, both in its Eucharistic and heavenly modes…
2) Taking the care to make sure that there are no “empty seats” on our account…
3) Coming to the banquet (again both Eucharistic and heavenly) suitably prepared…
4) Uniting ourselves fully to the Pope, and working to unite the bishops and those outside the visible Church into the kind of unity that the Eucharist, and heaven, will demand.