Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers.

Imagine being a guest at Herod’s birthday feast. He is hosting a party in his own honor. On the menu: the finest cuts of lamb and veal, the creamiest hummus, juicy pomegranates, and the freshest fish, direct from the Sea of Galilee. All the signs of wealth and prosperity are present. What a privilege it would be to be there, mingling with Herod’s “courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee” (Mark 6:21)!

Now, imagine being a guest at a very different feast. This banquet’s host is Jesus, and it takes place every time his people gather to celebrate the Eucharist. Unlike Herod, Jesus is not honoring himself. He is honoring us with the gift of divine life. Whereas Herod has invited only the elite, Jesus invites everyone—rich and poor, proud and humble, satisfied and needy. And while Herod’s guests have come expecting to play the power games that accompany all political banquets, Jesus wants us to come only to receive his healing and grace.

As for the menu at Jesus’ banquet: bread and wine. Not the fresh-out-of-the-oven bread that Herod would have provided, but thin unleavened wafers. And not the choicest vintage, but everyday wine. But there’s something about this food that sets it apart: it is a miracle. It may be simple, but it is transformed into a sacramental feast that has the power to transform every human heart.

Herod’s banquet ends on an ominous note: with John the Baptist’s severed head on a platter and the guests nervously wondering who his next victim might be. But Jesus’ banquet ends with his guests secure in his love and desire to care for them.

At every Mass, Jesus spreads a banquet table for you. He invites you to feast on his word in Scripture and on his own Body and Blood. Ever the attentive host, he goes out of his way to make sure you are made to feel welcome and cared for. Then he asks you to go out into the world ready to show just as much care and concern for everyone around you. Or, to put it another way: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

“Jesus, thank you for inviting me to your banquet of life!”

Hebrews 13:1-8
Psalm 27:1, 3, 5, 8-9
Mark 6:14-29


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