Monday, June 11, 2007

"That my house may be full"

"Quick, go out into the streets and lanes of the city; bring in the poor, the cripples, the blind and the lame....give them no choice but to come in, that so my house may be filled." (Antiphon of the Magnificat, on Sunday).

This antiphon forms part of yesterday's Gospel - the parable of the man that gave a great supper (Luke 14:16-24). Although the parable is usually applied to the Blessed Eucharist, it is easy to find in it an allusion to our calling as members of the Church Christ came to found; a calling for which we can never be sufficiently thankful, and with which we must co-operate. We thank you, O Jesus, both for your Sacrament of the Altar and for our vocation to the true Church. Jesus tells the Pharisee the parable of the banquet. The table is sumptuously spread; the baked meats are prepared, all is in order, but no guests appear. The great man sends his servant to tell them that all is now ready, and they begin, with one accord to make excuses. Thereupon the host declares that none of those who were first invited shall taste of his supper. He says to his servant, "Quick, go out into the streets and lanes of the city; bring in the poor, the cripples, the blind and the lame" They do so, but still there is room. Then he bids his servant "Go out into the highways and the hedge-rows, and give them no choice but to come in, that so my house may be filled". The banquet signifies the means of grace that the Church offers. Did mankind ever receive a greater gift, a more pressing invitation? And yet, how many refuse it? We remember, with profound gratitude, that God has called us from the highways and hedge-rows of heathendom to the shelter of his Church. Why were we not born, like so many others, in a pagan land, where the light of the Gospel had not yet shone? Do we thank God daily for our election and the grace of our baptism? It is not so natural as it may seem to us, that we should be Christians, members of the one true Church, rather than heathen, like millions of others, who would perhaps have responded better to God's call. There is but one reason - the loving-kindness of our heavenly Father, the grace he has granted us (Phil. 1:29). May we be ever thankful, fulfilling faithfully and in a spirit of love the duties it imposes! Thankful also because we are God's guests who sit daily at his table, where Christ, our Host, is also our meat; a Host whose desire is that his house may be filled! He tells us today, and bids us, his elect, help to fill his Church, his House on earth. Our life is full of petty sacrifices which we can offer in union with that which our Head offers thousands of times in one day. Jesus demands the co-operation of his servants, his privileged souls. He complains: "If I lack apostle to carry on my work of redemption, it is because many of them do not live as my consecrated helpers should" . Let our resolution today be to lead in future a holier, a more truly religious life.
The meanest task, offered for the salvation of souls, can help priests and missionaries in their labour and obtain the grace of a true conversion for those entrusted to them. Our aim must be to bring all Christ's children to his banquet. Our special vocation gives us many occasions of doing so; there are the children we teach, the sick we nurse, all those who come our way and who are seeking truth and the peace it brings. We shall succeed, not so much by insistence as by prayer and example. If we ourselves receive Holy Communion with true piety, living from day to day on the strength it brings us, it will not escape the notice of those with whom and for whom we work.

Lord, we thank you for your infinite love and goodness, which have called us to your Church. May we say with the great Apostle, "By God's grace, I am what I am, and the grace he has shown me has not been without fruit" (1 Cor. 15:10).