Tuesday, October 25, 2011


     Today’s Scripture presents us with heavenly feasts and wedding banquets, St. Paul reflects on times of feast and famine, and the whole is crowned with the heavenly Host of Psalm 23 spreading a table in the sight of our foes. “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need” is a poetic rendering of this psalm by the great 18th-century hymnist Isaac Watts.  It is set to a tune with Scottish-Irish roots, probably sung by early settlers in Appalachia. Like other folk-based songs of this origin (“Amazing Grace,” “Land Of Rest” and “Sing A New Church”), it uses a 5-note scale which makes for a haunting melody, and AABA form, which makes it easy to learn.
    The hymn “Come, Host of Heaven’s
High Dwelling Place
” builds on the theme of the psalm. This might be a good time to consider the meaning of “host.” Most often, the word means someone who offers hospitality. In Catholic liturgy, it refers to communion bread. Less often, it means a crowd, as in “heavenly hosts,” and this is the sense of “the Lord of hosts.” This expression will be restored to the “Holy, Holy” in December, but this week we are returning to Grayson Brown’s setting of the “Holy, Holy” which uses the older text. He also composed the memorial acclamation “Dying You Destroyed Our Death.”
     At the heart of our gospel banquet is an invitation. Like the vineyard owners’ sons two weeks ago, and the sharecroppers we heard about last week, it is up to us to respond to the invitation, and we in turn must extend that invitation to others. If we follow through, we are apt to have quite a motley crew at the party, and that is what “Jesus Calls Us” is all about. Scholars tell us that the episode of the improperly-dressed guest was probably a different parable which was appended to the banquet story some time after Matthew’s gospel was compiled, possibly in response to Jewish Christians who could not process Jesus’ radical acceptance of tax collectors, prostitutes and Gentiles. Judgmental church-folk seem to be a perennial issue. The significance of the wedding garment may be open to discussion, but almost all of us have had a nightmare about being embarrassed because we were not dressed for the occasion. These days there is a variety of styles around the table, but “Plenty Good Room” for all. The original spiritual inspired our own Sr. Chris Diensberg to write her own verses for the song, which is our 10:00 entrance hymn. “Been So Busy” evokes Paul’s work among the Christians of Philippi, a theme of “busy-ness” which we will hear about into Advent. This week’s Marian tribute includes hymns to Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Knock. This last appearance of Mary took place in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1879.