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  • Steve Auth

Come to the Feast


Paolo Veronese, “The Wedding at Cana”, 1562-63

March 24, 2024, New York City.  Evelyn and I are back in New York for the missions next week, and it’s a clear, sunny Palm Sunday morning!  Chilly, but the storms of yesterday have passed; Holy week is upon us.  Missionaries are gathering their rosaries and finalizing travel plans to join us at St. Patrick’s tomorrow and in SoHo at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral for the balance of the week.  Many of the souls we will touch, with the Holy Spirit at our side, are not even aware-- at this moment --that we’re coming, or that by some strange “coincidence” they will bump into one of our missionaries this week and have their lives forever changed.  They have alternative plans, I’m sure.  At least until they get an invitation of a lifetime, an invitation to the Feast.  That invitation will be our theme this year, so here are a few thoughts to focus on.   


1.     “The party of a lifetime.”  In this city of party-goers, what better draw than the Party of a Lifetime, depicted spectacularly in this over-sized image from the Louvre, Paolo Veronese’s “The Wedding at Cana.”  It seems everyone is there, and they’re all having one heck of a time.  Nobility, artists, servants, shop keepers, money men, casual passers by and close friends—all are at the eternal feast portrayed in Veronese’s masterpiece. At the center sits Jesus with his Apostles, a scene almost lifted out of Da Vinci’s famous painting of the Last Supper, for which the feast at Cana was both a prelude and, in a heavenly way, an epilogue.  This eternal party for the ages, with Jesus at the center, is what all of us are shooting for, whether we know it or not.  It’s the party to end all parties, the eternal feast.  And here’s the rub:  it’s not exclusive.  ALL ARE WELCOME!  You just have to accept the invite, and show up properly dressed.  Dressed in the love of Christ.

 

2.     “The mother of Jesus was there.” (Jn 2:1)  Something for all of us to pray for this week is the help of our Blessed Mother.    Veronese himself emphasizes her presence very consciously in the way he alters da Vinci’s famous Last Supper composition inserted into the scene, placing Mary immediately on Jesus’ right.  Yes!  The Blessed Mother was there, and is there now, always rooting for us, intervening, leading us home to the Feast of her son.   With a mother’s big heart, she wants all of us, missionaries and missioned alike, to make it to the big feast, to be with her son Jesus and her and all the saints, forever, in heaven.  So even if you can’t be with us next week on the streets, please say a rosary for us and those we will meet.  Ask for her help for us.  We need her.

 

 

3.     “They have no wine.” (Jn 2:3)  One of the ironies of this great big ‘city that never sleeps’ is that even though they think they have plenty of wine, just like the party goers at the Wedding at Cana, they actually don’t have enough of the real stuff.  They are drinking a lesser vintage, the kind that tastes good going down but then fades and doesn’t last.  They don’t have the real thing.  The real thing is Jesus, and He lasts forever.  He’s the real wine.  Once they taste it, there’ll be no going back.  So let’s give them a taste of Jesus—of his Joy, of his Love.  Once they taste a little of that in their “chance” encounter with us on the streets, they’ll want more.  They’ll figure out they have no wine.  They’ll want the real stuff.

 

4.     “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5)  Mary is pretty taciturn in the bible accounts, and is only quoted directly four times.  One of these quotes is this very simple, very specific instruction from the story of the wedding at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.”  That’s her blueprint for us to get to the Feast—just do what he tells us.  So simple, yet so hard.  Hard for those souls out there lost on the streets, and hard for the missionaries too.  Many people we will meet this week have not been doing what the Lord wants them to do, and many of those think as a result that they are irredeemable, that they’ll never get to the Feast and so they’re better off not even trying.  We’re here to tell them differently.  They are indeed forgivable, they are loved.  In fact, even when lost in the back alleys of life, they are the beloved sons and daughters of God.  He created them, and He loves them still.  He wants them at the Feast.  They just have to accept the invitation; they just have to “Do what he tells you.”

 

5.     “It’s right in front of you.”  Whenever I give a talk about the Veronese’s masterpiece at the Louvre, I like to ask the audience if anyone has ever seen it.  Normally, crickets.  Then I ask, “Has anyone seen the Mona Lisa?”  A near unanimous, resounding “YES!”  Then, with a mischievous smile, I say this, “Well then, you’ve all seen the ‘Wedding at Cana.’  It’s the massive 22’ by 36’ painting directly across the gallery from the Mona Lisa; it’s what she’s looking at!”  Sometimes, the prize we are all seeking, even when we don’t think we are seeking it, is actually right in front of us.  So big, we miss it.  We take it for granted, or it’s too spectacular to believe it’s really there, or we are just too distracted looking at something that everyone has told us is more important, is a “masterpiece.”  We hurry right past it.  And then, as time goes on, we don’t even remember seeing it.  Yet, deep, deep down in our consciousness, in our souls, the memories, the image of the Feast  is still there, gnawing at us.  Each of us has that image imprinted in us, the image of the God we all still seek, even when we don’t realize it anymore.  We just need someone to remind us.  We just need someone to invite us the Feast.


A missionary

March 24, 2024

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