15Oct 15 October. 28th Sunday in OT

St Teresa of Avila, virgin and doctor of the Church

By baptism we are called to salvation, to take our place in the kingdom of God. Somehow, we must wear a wedding garment, so as to take our assigned seat at the wedding feast. Our eucharist recalls our invitation and prompts reflection on how we are living. But it is not all our own doing, as Paul reminds us. It is God’s grace that prompts us to a worthy life, despite human weakness; we can do all things through him who strengthens us.

1st Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10

The image of a banquet symbolises the blessings God has in store for His People

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.

2nd Reading: Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20

Paul tries not to depend on material things, but trusts in the Lord for what he needs

I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress. And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14

God is like a king who invites us to a banquet. Many refuse their invitation

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.

The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”


See Readings in the JB version,
Also  Sunday Readings in Irish.

A thought for today

Kieran O’Mahony

Wedding feasts are mentioned in the parables from time to time. The original parable may have ended with the words “invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” The detail of the troops — unlikely as a part of a wedding invitation(!) — realistically portrays the later destruction of Jerusalem, which Christians looked back upon precisely as punishment for that rejection. The ending of the parable is difficult for us today on a spiritual level. However, it is meant to provoke conversion in a possibly complacent church.

For his exegetical comments on today’s readings, click here.

Tomorrow’s World

What does tomorrow hold for us? What is there to hope for? Our imagination often projects into the future, wondering… As children, we wondered what will it be when like when we grow up? Parents promised us new freedoms and new possibilities, but only “when you are older.” Human nature lives in vital tension between the Already and the Not-Yet.

As adults we may have to trim and focus our hopes and fantasies into narrower channels with the passing years. But we are still interested in what lies ahead, not just for self and family, but for our wider society and world. What steps in technology lie around the corner? How will society develop between now and 2050? The changing balance between richer and poorer countries; the unstable climate of marriage and family in our own nation; proposed educational changes and law reforms; new employment initiatives; new and better medical and recreational facilities — all are subject to keen analysis and hopeful projection.

Elderly people tend to ponder more on the past than the future, focussing on bygone events and relationships. Their forward looking is tinged more with anxiety than with hope. In the dignity of their mature years, they accept Che sera, sera; “whatever will be, will be.” If they have learned a habit of prayer, they peacefully leave the future in God’s hands.

Today’s Scriptures invite us to raise our sights and our hearts, when thinking of the future. Beyond this present life, God intends a future for all of us. Isaiah’s prophecy of the heavenly banquet is an invitation to believe in our eternal destiny. There is more to live for than this present world, interesting and challenging though it is. What really counts is whether we succeed in reaching our eternal destiny with God.

Perhaps our predecessors in the faith had a stronger sense of the afterlife than is current today. Like Saint Paul, they believed that history is in God’s hands and that divine justice will have the last say. Difficulties in one’s present life could then be seen as growth-pains, or as a means of purifying the spirit from selfishness and sin. Under it all, the world was “in travail,” in process of bringing a new era into existence. So it was that Paul, and many other men and women of faith, could be inwardly at peace, no matter how hard the circumstances in which they found them-selves. We can “do all things in Him who strengthens us,” if we hold on to the hope of everlasting life.

The eternal banquet is not really “pie in the sky’! Christians don’t literally expect to sit down to an everlasting meal, an eternal eating and drinking festival somewhere in the stratosphere. While heaven is described in vivid anthropomorphic images, we realize that “eye has not seen.. nor can the human heart imagine, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2:9.) Still, the banqueting atmosphere of friendly conviviality is a good image for that perfect loving communion with God and with others towards which our lives are destined.

Jesus emphasises that this wedding-banquet is open to all people indeed, that God sends his messengers out to scour the highways and byways in order to fill his house with guests. It is a comforting thought that God wants us to be saved, even more than we do ourselves.

On the other hand, there is a special regalia or wedding-garment that must be worn. This is the level of personal commitment required, in order to accept our place at the wedding feast. I like to think that this refers primarily to community spirit, an ability to share our well-being with other people, in the presence of God. Though founded on faith in God’s creative love, Christian hope retains a strong ethical dimension. Our wedding-garment is therefore being woven daily, by the quality of our interaction with others. In this sense, we hold tomorrow in our own hands, as with the help of God’s grace we build our own eternal future.

What about heaven?

Our notion of heaven derives largely from what we regard as most desirable in this world. Such was always the case. Every age reinvents heaven to mirror its own time. What is depicted tells us more about conditions here than in the hereafter. The idea of its being a marriage feast has little appeal for some of us. Like most priests, I have had more than my share of wedding receptions in this world, with their invariable menus of turkey and ham, to have any desire for more of the same in the next. Yet, there was a time in my life when food came high on the list of desirables. The smell of fried eggs and bacon from the staff dining-room in my boarding-school days could transport me to another world!

Such was the bleakness of the lives of most people in biblical and other times, when food was basic and scarce, it is not surprising that Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a royal wedding feast. There was of course a political agenda behind those royal banquets. They helped to insure that the heir to the throne would be accepted and loved by his poorer subjects. Caesars and senators in ancient Rome were accustomed to sponsor gladiatorial contests and other bloody spectacles for much the same reason. Cynical Romans were well aware that their acquiescence in, if not allegiance to, the ruling junta, was being bought with ‘bread and circuses’. Vestiges of the same still survive today as richer countries vie with each other to host the Olympic Games or the World Cup.

In the parable Jesus spoke to the religious hierarchy of his time. They were his prime target and they knew it. Already they had plans to rid themselves of this rabble-rousing rabbi, for they were too preoccupied with clinging to privilege and power to accept God’s invitation to the wedding-feast. Others had their ‘farms’ and their ‘businesses’, their deals and the social whirl. Unhappy with being reprimanded for their dubious practices, they rejected the prophetic messengers sent to warn them that the feast was ready. This story goes on finding in every age a new target audience. Maybe Curial executive types who run the local churches like regional subsidiaries of a giant international company should take the warning nowadays. But they are not alone. It would be comforting to think of ourselves as too ordinary to be included, or that we are among those at the crossroads who finally fill the wedding-hall. Our baptism placed us squarely on the guest list. Our profession of faith every Sunday confirms it. But our actual priorities might still keep us from making to the wedding feast.

It used to be thought that heaven was the better of the two options on offer when we die. The Christian truth is that the offer of heaven is made here and now; for death only fixes for eternity the choice we actually make in this life. We have already received our invitations. We have been tagged with an RSVP. -We are already making our responses by the priorities we choose here and now.

Daniel Berrigan observed how this story is full of ironies. “We have the Christ of love-your-enemies telling about a king who takes revenge on his enemies (Matthew 22, 1-14). This king recalls the most savage of Hebrew and Gentile rulers. The invitation to his banquet declares that everyone is welcome, “both evil and good.” But after the ragtag guests assemble, someone is by no means welcomed. Quite the opposite. He is “bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness.” His offense? Lacking that well-known wedding garment. This anonymous guest, someone from “the main highways,” perhaps homeless, almost certainly destitute, where was such a one to come on a festive robe? Imagine a homeless person rounded up to appear at a wedding and then berated for not being clothed in a tuxedo!”

Saint Teresa of Avila, virgin and doctor of the Church

Teresa Snchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (1515-1582), was a Spanish Carmelite nun from Avila, a contemplative mystic, reformer and major figure in the Counter Reformation. Along with John of the Cross she founded the Discalced (or reformed) Carmelites. For her mystical writings she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

3 Responses

  1. Kevin Walters

    “This anonymous guest, someone from “the main highways,” perhaps homeless, almost certainly destitute, where was such a one to come on a festive robe?

    If we transfer this statement onto the spiritual plane, it could be said the homeless and destitute are those who have lost their home (Church) and are ensnared in evil situations and need spiritual help now, in the present moment.

    I was about twelve years old when I first recollected hearing this parable, but could not understand how not having a wedding garment could result in such harsh dealings with the individual concerned, which caused me a great deal of distress and anxiety at the time, as I took the parable given by Jesus at face value, thinking possible he had no way of providing himself with one and so I could not understand this cruelty.

    About fifty years later I read somewhere on the internet, of the Jewish custom at the beginning of the first century AD, of the Father of the groom providing wedding garments free of charge for the invited guests, so I now realize that those who original heard this parable would have known instantly that the custom of the day was that the wedding garment was provided ‘free’ of charge, and had to be worn no matter how well one’s own apparel may be, dignitaries etc would conform to this custom as did those with poor apparel, not to do so would be an affront to the Bridegroom.
    This garment also created equality (Mutual respect) amongst the guest.

    I now believe that the name of this garment is humility; we can deduce this because we are told that one of the guests had no garment, to those hearing this parable they would have instantly concluded that he was arrogant, by refusing to wear the free customary garment of compliance offered to him.
    He wanted to be accepted on his own terms, as he was, in his own/self-image (ego). He was gagged, (his opinion no longer to contradict (offend) God, his stance so offensive that he was bound hand and foot and thrown into the darkness never to be able to repeat the same action again.

    This reflection has drawn me back to the original time when I first heard the parable, it appears that my pray and anxiety at the time, concerning the individual who had been thrown out, gaged, bond hand and foot, in to the darkness had now been answered, as I now understood the parable and also I had been given the means The True Image of Divine Mercy an image of Broken Man, to play my part to draw anyone who cannot take part in His Wedding Feast (Holy Communion) to come in from the darkness unfettered dressed in Humility and partake of His table.
    Please consider continuing this refection on humility (St. Bernard- Humility a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself” see link
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  2. Pádraig McCarthy

    When Jesus tells a story, we must not presume that he is expressing approval of all that is done in the story.

    This gospel parable shocks us with cruelty and injustice. We are well used to such actions in our world today – the slaughter of innocent peoples, the cruelty and injustice inflicted by financial institutions, the slavery (all but in name) in which millions are forced to live, the truck bombs as well as the suffering inflicted by military drones controlled from thousands of kilometres away, the sexual harassment and abuse, the neglect of the most vulnerable.

    It’s strange the injustice which seems to catch our attention is in the treatment of the guest without the wedding garment in the second story which Matthew tags on (unlike Luke), rather than the savagery described earlier in the reading. And what happens in this second part still happens today. Many countries today treat asylum seekers like that – they consign them to living conditions which binds them hand and feet, denying them the possibility of the dignity of human living, whether in direct provision centres as in Ireland and similar elsewhere, or on offshore island as with Australia.

    The people Jesus was addressing were well familiar with the cruelties, random and targeted, in their world.
    What we today perhaps miss is the greatest shock in the reading for the people of the time: the gathering of people, bad and good, from the highways and byways, to the royal wedding. How could decent respectable people possibly associate – and eat and drink! – with that rabble? Jesus was criticized for behaving like that. The early Christian church had problems with people from all strata of society being made equally welcome at the Sunday eucharist. To me, it seems this is the heart of the parable.

    Do we presume today that our Sunday celebrations are equally open to all, and fail to recognise that the way our society treats some people would make them feel most uncomfortable at Mass today? How many of those who sleep rough around Ireland will know they will be welcomed warmly in from the cold and into the congregation, today and every Sunday? How can we say that they are valued members of our communities, when we send them back out without the minimum basics of living, and when hundreds of people wait in line every week at the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin for food parcels?

    The difficulties with today’s gospel reading are not just back in the stories told, but in how, in trying to figure them out, we miss the core of the challenge.

  3. Kevin Walters

    Padraig @ 2

    “We are well used to such actions in our world today”……….

    You describe the reality of sin well, and I would add, we see the on-going reality of our fallen human nature, as in fifty nine million aborted babies in the USA alone, since 1973, fifty nine million! Who never saw the light of day

    “The difficulties with today’s gospel reading are not just back in the stories told, but in how, in trying to figure them out, we miss the core of the challenge”

    The core of the on-going challenge in all of the gospels is one of spiritual enlightenment, as in “Repent” ~ to change direction (Transformation of the human heart).
    This can only come about in wearing the wedding garment of humility, before our Father in heaven (St. Bernard- Humility a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself”

    kevin your brother
    In Christ