“Thus says the Lord: everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness. Incline your ear to me; hear that your soul may live; and I will make you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast sure love for David” (Isaiah 55: 1-3)
Here is the most beautiful of all invitations, issued by God to all the peoples of the world, wherever and whenever they live. It was issued in the seventh century B.C. through the prophet Isaiah, but the fullness of its meaning only became clear six hundred years later with the coming of Christ. We find it in the Old Testament, but its meaning only comes clear in the New. As the Second Vatican Council said (following St. Augustine) “God, the inspirer and author of the books of both Testaments, in His wisdom has so brought it about that the New should be hidden in the Old and that the Old should be made manifest in the New.” (Dei Verbum, par 16)
The invitation is to a banquet, a never ending meal given as a gift for all who would receive the invitation. The food and wine that are served, we learn a few verses later are no average fare. They are mercy, pardon, renewed relationship, and peace (vv 7-12): the fulfillment of every need and longing in ultimate security and safety.
Entrance is free because the host himself has paid the price for our participation; He the Lord’s suffering servant who “was wounded for our transgressions,…bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed”.
All are invited.
What must have been seen as a glorious but mysterious promise by those who heard Isaiah speak, must have become luminous, even blinding in glory to those who heard Jesus speak: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). They must have been stunned when they saw him on the cross and realized that he was there “wounded for our transgressions”, remembering that only the night before he had taken bread and the cup at his last banquet and said, “This is my body, given for you”, “This is a New Covenant in my blood shed for you and for many for the remission of sins”. The promise of mercy, pardon, renewed relationship and peace were fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the Christ. He, himself, was the promised banquet!
And he still is. Still the invitation goes out, “Everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters”. Still the words are spoken, “This Is my body” and “This is my blood”. Still all who receive the bread and wine receive Christ himself.
It is no mere symbol. It is no mere remembrance. It is the promised banquet where we receive real mercy, real grace, real pardon and peace, for we receive the real presence of Jesus, who is not only the host, but the banquet itself.
“Ho! everyone that is thirsty in spirit. Ho! Everyone that is weary and sad. Come to the fountain, there’s fullness in Jesus All that you’re longing for, Come and be glad! Child of the world are you tired of your burden? Weary of earth’s joy, so false so untrue? Thirsting for God and his fullness and blessing, List to the promise, a message for you: ‘I will pour water on him that is thirsty. I will pour floods upon the dry ground. Open your hearts for the gifts I am bringing. While you are seeking me, I will be found.’” Lucy Rider Meyer
Today, whether at the Eucharist or, at all times, turn to Jesus, “feeding on him by faith in your heart”, for He is, himself, the promise fulfilled. He is our mercy, pardon, and peace.
Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.