By Orlando Hernández
The above is the title of a homily by Fr. Richard Scheiner,C.P. . This Good Friday I stood before his grave on the grounds of the Passionist Monastery in Jamaica, Queens, N.Y.. I have learned so much from him. He was my spiritual director, and, towards the end, I considered him my friend. He wrote:
“Jesus loved to go to banquets. At least that is what Luke would have us believe as he describes Jesus accepting invitations to meals from his friends as well as from Pharisees, and even from tax collectors and notorious sinners….. The fact that Jesus ate with just about anyone who offered him a meal–he excluded no one–holds a great lesson for us today. Jesus seemed to especially enjoy eating with the despised and sinners. Sinners, remember, in Jesus’ time weren’t just people who had broken God’s commandments and led an immoral life. Sinners were those who were dubbed as sinners by the Pharisees, and it was easy to be a sinner in the Pharisees’ eyes; all you had to do was engage in an occupation they didn’t approve of. If you weren’t sure you qualified as a sinner, you could always check the Pharisees’ list of disreputable activities. The list was long.”
In this Thursday’s Gospel (Lk 24:35-48) the Resurrected Lord appears in the very midst of His disciples and gives them all a good scare (although I tend to believe that the disciples form Emmaus, Mary Magdalene, and His Blessed Mother were immediately delighted!). The words of the Word of God are powerful indeed. So when He told them “Peace be with you”, I believe the mood in that fearful, guilt-filled “upper room” changed immediately. Then our Glorified Lord told them:
“ ‘Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as He said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, He asked them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ “ (Lk 24: 38-41)
Of course! The Jesus who loved banquets! I am again reminded of the lovely verse from Revelation 3:2: “Behold, I stand at your 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.” Except that, on this blessed Sunday, the Lord did not bother to knock. He just showed up. This luminous scene is fertile ground for prayer, to let our imaginations fly with the Beloved in a kind of Ignatian meditation:
My beautiful Lord, did the disciples join You for dinner? Does this qualify as a banquet, in this dark hiding place, probably having only enough for a simple, humble meal? I feel You were the Light that illuminated this room. Your Presence Itself was the main course. Suddenly the incredulous joy turns into pure, amazing happiness. You “opened their minds” by gently blowing Your Holy Spirit on them. I can only imagine such a glorious moment. Was it solemn and quiet, like the Liturgy of the Mass, no one daring to say anything, except You, the High Priest? Or was it also like so many Easter celebrations by so many families on Easter Sunday, noisy and full of laughter, tears, and memories? Lord, would I have been invited to such a feast with You? Do those terrible scars on Your glorified hands and on Your face give me the right to approach Your table?
I spent the Easter Tridiium at the Passionist Spiritual Center in Jamaica, Queens, with wonderful servants of God as our hosts, and with 45 other retreatants. Our mealtimes were truly filled with joyful conversations ( except during the Silence of Good Friday). There was such love in the air because You were there with us. And yet I was hurt and disturbed by one retreatant, a warrior of God, an “us against them Catholic”. We need such brothers and sisters fighting for the traditional values of our Church, but she told some of us (I believe she did it out of concern and love) that our souls were damned by mortal sin because of the choices we had made on the 2016 elections . We needed to kneel before God and beg for forgiveness.
Beloved Jesus, I do kneel before You and ask You for Your mercy. Lead me in the right path so that You may never leave the Upper Room of my soul. And I beg You, unite all Your followers, whether “conservatives” or “liberals”. Teach us tolerance and understanding toward each other. Make us one in Your Body.
Fr. Richard finished his homily like this: “I think the fact that Jesus excluded no one form eating with Him demonstrates the all encompassing love Jesus displayed for all of us. It is this kind of love that He expects us to practice if we are to be His disciples. Jesus excluded no one from the kingdom of God; he proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom to everyone. Jesus was free, free of the desire to be endorsed and approved by the powerful of His time. Jesus did what He knew was right; He knew what was right because He was grounded in God. Come, and have dinner with Jesus.”
Dear Fr. Richard, pray for us!