Banquet is the extravagant and formal meal with several people in honor of a person or as part of a celebration (Esth 5:4; 7:1).
JESUS AND BANQUET
Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus enjoyed banquet with public including rich and poor, righteous and sinner. Jesus did his first miracle at a wedding banquet at Cana in Galilee (Jn 2:1-11). Jesus said, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” (Mt 11:19). After his ascension, Jesus revealed to John in the Island of Patmos, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).
BANQUET AND KINGDOM OF GOD
Jesus compared the joy of the Kingdom of heaven like a banquet that is enjoyable, relaxed, and involves friendship. While Jesus was dining at the house of a leading Pharisee on a Sabbath, he said, “when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” (Lk 14:13). “One of his fellow guests on hearing this said to him, ‘Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God’” (Lk 14:15). Jesus then taught “the parable of the grand feast” where he presented Israelites as the invited guests who rejected the invitation when the banquet started (Lk 14:15-24). Thus, Jesus presented the church he established as a heavenly banquet.
Jesus established the Holy Eucharist during the Passover meal and asked to continue it as a foretaste of the banquet in heaven. Therefore, the church considers the Holy Eucharist as a heavenly banquet to prepare for entry into heaven. “Thus from celebration to celebration, as they proclaim the Paschal mystery of Jesus ‘until he comes,’ the pilgrim People of God advances, ‘following the narrow way of the cross,’ toward the heavenly banquet, when all the elect will be seated at the table of the kingdom” (CCC-1344). Jesus told the Jews, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:53-54).
INCLUSION OF GENTILES IN THE BANQUET
The Jews excluded Gentiles and publicans from their banquets. When Peter went to Jerusalem, “the circumcised believers confronted him, saying, ‘You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them’” (Acts 11:2-3). The Jewish leaders criticized Jesus for eating with non-Jews and sinners. Jesus called Levi and dined at his house with his friends who were sinners (Mk 2:13-17). The Pharisees and scribes complained against Jesus, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15:2). The Jews avoided mingling with the Gentiles to prevent their sinful and idolatrous influence on them. Jesus mingled with the sinners and gentiles to convert them and save them. He clarified to those who opposed him at Levi’s house, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mk 2:17).
When Jews used to avoid eating with the Gentiles, Jesus taught that people from all nations including the Gentiles would recline at the Table of the Lord in heaven while many chosen people of Israel would be cast out. Appreciating the faith of centurion in Capernaum Jesus said, “I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Mt 8:11-12).
Like the Israelites God invited in the past to his banquet in heaven, Jesus called the Christians to join his Eucharistic banquet. That makes them eligible for the eternal banquet in heaven. Though the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus taught his disciples the need of “wedding garment” to take part in his banquet (Mt 22:1-14). Hence, let us be in the sacramental grace to enjoy the Eucharistic meal in this world and for the eternal banquet in heaven when God calls us from this life.