On the Parable of the Great Supper.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Parable of the Great Supper.
Our Lord is sitting at table in the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees; He has healed the man who had the dropsy, and now making use, as was His habit, of every opportunity to scatter the seed of divine truth in the hearts of men, He proceeds to relate to His fellow guests the parable of the great supper. Place yourself in spirit amongst those who were at table with Him, listen as they did to the parable which had so deep a signification, and meditate upon the words uttered by His sacred lips.
1st. “A certain man made a great supper and invited many.” (St. Luke xiv. 16.) According to St. Bonaventure’s interpretation, we are to understand this supper as signifying the celestial glory which awaits the Christian at the close, in the evening of life. Our Lord calls it a great supper. And indeed it may well be called great, by reason of Him who gives it, none other than Almighty God Himself. It is great by reason of the viands of which the guests partake, the blissful enjoyment of the beatific vision of God. It is great by reason of the place in which the feast is held the boundless realms of Heaven. It is great by reason of the period of its duration it lasts to all eternity. Finally, it is great by reason of the number and distinction of the guests. They are the countless multitude of the elect; the children and favorites, the sons and daughters of a God of infinite majesty. Endeavor, my soul, to realize the surpassing grandeur and greatness of this supper, to which you are also invited, and then consider: Is it therefore so hard a thing to sit for a few years grieving and hungering here below at the table of this mortal existence, if one has before one the prospect of never ending delight and enjoyment at the glorious feast in Heaven? What can be more hopelessly foolish than to throw away one’s chance of partaking of this great supper and for what do we throw it away? For the sake of satiating oneself for a few moments at the swine’s trough of earthly gratifications, with the wretched garbage those animals devour! Unhappily there are only too many such fools.
2d. “And he sent his servant at the hour of supper to say to them that were invited that they should come, for now all things were ready. And they began all at once to make excuse.” (v. 17, 18.) The Lord of Heaven sends out His servants to invite the guests. According to St. Gregory these servants represent the Preachers, the messengers of God, the heralds of the Most High, who from Ekioch down to the prophets, from the apostles to their successors, continually proclaim the good tidings of the kingdom of God. But although “their sound hath gone forth into all the earth,” a vast number do not obey the call, but begin to make excuse. “I have bought a farm and I must needs go and see it.” (v. 18.) That is what the first said. And another said: “I have bought five yoke of oxen and I go to try them”; whilst a third excused himself from attending on the plea: “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” (v. 20.) St. Augustine explains the “farm,” the landed estate, as symbolical of authority or pride; the oxen, which appertain to the soil, as significant of the earthly minded and avaricious; while the man who is newly married represents those who are enslaved by sensual desires. And truly, my soul, it is these three vices, the concupiscence of the eyes, the concupiscence of the flesh, the pride of life which keep thousands back from the marriage feast in Heaven. It is they, moreover, which either prevent or impede the worthy approach to the holy table on earth; and if you thoroughly examine your heart and ask yourself when it is that you feel most cold, most indifferent in regard to that heavenly banquet, when you partake of it with least devotion, you will find that it is when one of these three vices has cast its shadow over your soul, when thoughts of pride have taken possession of your mind, when earthly cares engross your attention or sensual desires awake within your breast.
3d. The heavenly King now gives orders to His servants: “Go out into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in hither the poor and the feeble, and the lame and the blind.” (v. 21.) Those who were first invited, the Pharisees, the Scribes, the ancients of the Hebrew nation paid no heed to the call of the Lord, therefore He now turns to the poor, feeble folk in the streets, within the bounds of the city of Jerusalem and the territory of Judea; but as there are not enough of these to fill the hall where the nuptials are held, i.e., the Church, then the Lord said to the servant: “Go out into the highways and compel them to come in, that My house may be filled.” (v. 23.) Accordingly the messenger of God goes forth from the city of Jerusalem out into the highways to those who are outside, without the law, to the Gentiles; and he does not content himself with simply inviting them, he compels them by means of countless blessings, miracles, graces, to enter into God’s house. Let your thoughts, my soul, dwell attentively on the actual meaning of this parable, in which we see depicted the superabundant and marvellous charity and grace of our God, and then consider briefly its mystic signification as applied to the sacred supper of the Lord here below. Is it not the truly poor and destitute who in Holy Communion come to Him who refreshes those who labor and are burdened? And are not those the most worthy to “come in,” are not those most unmistakably provided with the marriage garment who in the eyes of the world are most despicable? and who because they mortify their senses, are looked down upon as being spiritually poor, blind and dumb? Never was a truer word spoken than that which the Blessed Virgin said: “He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich He hath sent empty away.” The owners of the farm and of the oxen, the husband of the wife, the rich, that is, who enjoy to satiety the things of earth, go away empty, whilst the poor, the blind, are filled with good things; they are the hungry, for they hunger after justice, and by their mortifications they leave their senses to hunger, they consider themselves as spiritually poor, blind and lame. Consider this, my soul, and perhaps to-day’s meditation will give you the key to the problem: How to partake daily of the heavenly feast and yet ever hunger for it. Will you allow yourself to be sent hungry away as being one of the rich?
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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