Nothing beats a barbecue on a beautiful summer day. Spending time outside with family and friends, having a few cold ones (sodas of course), and enjoying some burgers and hot dogs as the sun sets late in the evening and the fireflies appear – it’s the American way. Like the parallels in other cultures, it’s one of our ways to celebrate life by coming together over a good meal. Regretfully in our busy culture it happens less and less, but it still captures something we long for, a seemingly timeless moment to just be and enjoy.
What perhaps makes that image so attractive though, is that it’s really one of the best images of heaven we can come up with. Not so much in the idea that there will be burgers in heaven (though we can hope!), but the fact that heaven is often described as a great feast, the wedding feast of the lamb. Heaven is an eternal celebration of being united in love with God and all those who share in that love. It’s not just me and God locked in an endless staring contest, nor is it just souls with harps floating around aimlessly; it’s an experience of the most profound intimacy with God and everyone else in heaven. We all come together and experience the fulfillment of the deepest longing in our hearts: the longing to be loved perfectly and endlessly.
That’s why we speak of the Eucharist as Holy Communion. At Mass, in receiving Communion, we are united with God in a way that foreshadows what heaven will be like. If we are in a state of grace (meaning free of mortal sin), our hearts are lifted up, and with all those who have ever attended Mass or will ever attend Mass, we are given a taste of God’s perfect love in the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood. We see firsthand that Christ died out of love for us as imperfect and broken as we are, and we are called to return that love by giving our lives to him.
In a world where so many are isolated, so many are in need of communion with others, let’s go out and try to bring others to the Mass, where they will experience that most profound Communion. Let’s welcome them into our community so they feel the peace and sense of belonging that we all share. Let’s extend an invitation to one person each Sunday, showing our interest and care for them. And coming here, surrounded by a community of faith, united with Christ in Holy Communion, let’s celebrate the taste of heaven God gives us – maybe not a barbecue, but the eternal feast we all hope for.