In 1958 Isak Denesen wrote a magnificent short story called Babbette’s Feast … the story takes place in Norway in the 19th century and centers around a small family. The father of the family, known as the Dean, was the minister of a small Lutheran sect up to his death. Their main focuses were charity, service to the poor and preparing themselves for heaven. They do not live a lavish lifestyle and strive to avoid the pleasures of the world. Babbette was the servant of the daughters of the Dean – though they lived a rather austere life, the servant kept up the house and cooked. She was French by birth. For years, Babbette served the girls faithfully. One day, she found out that she had won 10,000 Francs. She then decided, in order to honor what would have been the Dean’s 100th birthday to put on a grand feast. They invited members of the community at large – even though many held grudges against each other. And Babbette cooked the finest French food they had ever eaten. As they ate, they began to reminisce about the Dean, laughter ensued, grievances melted away, wounds were healed… and little did they know, that before coming into their service, Babbette was a chef at one of Paris’s finest restaurants. After the meal, they assumed that, with her money, she would go back to Paris and re-enter the culinary world. But she spent everything on that one meal. She stayed. She did not abandon the girls … she continued to serve them and provide for their meals. With what little she had, she gave everything … and stayed.
Friends, this is what we hear in the gospel today … What does Jesus do? He gathers the people, He cures them, and He feeds them… this is what the Eucharist is all about … Jesus gathers us to Himself in the context of worship … Through the graces of the Sacraments of Confession, Anointing of the Sick He heals the sick, the wounded, the brokenhearted, He reconciles us to Himself and to one another … In the Eucharist He feeds us with nothing other than the very best of food – Himself … AND He doesn’t run away, He doesn’t leave – He takes care of His own! The Eucharist is more than just a simple meal – it is His very presence … It is His sacrifice on the Cross … This is our God… this is no joke but the reality of our God present to us under the form of bread and wine … He takes care of us … He is among us!
Sadly, I have said this before, only 30% of Catholics actually believe in this reality. That means 70% of Catholics think the Eucharist is a mere symbol or not real at all. I can just imagine how much this saddens our Lord. It saddens me … and in this time period – these unprecedented times – it worries me how many people still stay home, still watch Mass on TV or online – not because they are ill, homebound, or just not ready to return … but because it is just all the more convenient. What does the Mass mean then? What does the faith mean? Its just not the same… Perhaps it is that we fail to realize that in this act of worship we come face to face with our God … where creature meets Creator … time meets eternity … This is where our God heals our wounds and strengthens our souls … and all He asks of us is faith – to believe, to trust Him… and to come to Him …
As one of the guests at Babbette’s feast put it: “In our human foolishness and short-sightedness, we imagine that grace is finite … But the moment comes when our eyes are opened and we realize that grace is infinite. Grace demands nothing of us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude.”
Friends this is our moment – this act of worship is the opportunity we have to see the real presence of our God in our midst … may we not fail to recognize Him and seek Him with every ounce of our being.