23Aug 23 August. Thursday, Week 20

1st Reading: Ezekiel (36:23-28)

The exiles return to their promised land, purified and renewed in spirit, and so enabled to keep God’s law

The Lord says this,

“I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

Responsorial (Ps 51)

R./: I will pour clean water on you and wash away all your sins

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me. (R./)

Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you. (R./)

For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (22:1-14)

The royal wedding, where people from the byroads take replace the original guests

Jesus again spoke to them in parables, saying:

“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.”


Ready for the festival

Ezekiel foresees Israel becoming a purified People of God, using the classic symbol of washing with water for the grace of renewal. This divine action will prepare them for re-entry into the Promised Land, after their Exile in Babylon. This water-symbol is repeated in the washing of Baptism, preparing each baptised person for entry to the Christian community and for bonding with Jesus.

The gospel asks us to be guided guided not just by tradition but by a personal response to God. The punch-line of the parable shows how gentiles from the byroads will share in the feast that once was reserved for Jews alone. In a later revision of the parable, the Evangelist added the phrase “bad as well as good” to describe the people from the byroads, thus reminding the reader of the final judgment. Eventually God will straighten out everything, rendering justice with compassion. Till then we must wait and believe, conscious of God’s goodness towards each of us, called in from the byroads.

Refusing an invitation

An invitation is not a command. We receive many invitations in life, either verbally or in writing. We are free to accept them or not. God’s way of relating to us is more by invitation than by command. Today’s parable is about an invitation to the banquet of eternal life. The king invites chosen guests to his son’s wedding but does not cancel the banquet when those who were first invited refuse; instead he invites a whole new group. It suggests the persistence of God’s call. When the first response to conversion is not forthcoming, God simply intensifies the invitation. It is God’s will that as many as possible can join in the banquet of eternal life.

The second part of the parable shows that saying ‘yes’ to God’s invitation is not a something to say just once and then forget about. We need to say ‘yes’ to God’s invitation every day of our lives. In the language of the parable, we have to keep wearing the wedding garment. Having been clothed with Christ at baptism, we need to keep true to what he stands for, day by day.

(Saint Rose of Lima, virgin)

Isabel Flores y de Oliva (1586-1617) from a Spanish colonial family in Lima, Peru, was nicknamed “Rose” from an incident in her childhood. She wanted to be a nun, but instead entered the Dominican Third Order while living in her parents’ home. At twenty she took a vow of perpetual virginity. For eleven years she lived an ascetical life of prayer and died at the age of 31. She was the first person born in the Americas to be canonized.


(Saint Eugene, bishop)

Eugene (Eoghan) is honoured as founder of the 7th century monastery of Ardstraw (Co. Tyrone). Tradition says he was born in Leinster; but as a boy he studied at Clones (Monaghan), from where was carried off by pirates to Britain and subsequently to Brittany. On obtaining his freedom, he went to study at St. Ninian’s Candida Casa; then returning to Ireland, he made a foundation at Kilnamanagh, in the Wicklow hills. Later he settled in the valley of Mourne (Co. Tyrone). He was followed by many disciples including his kinsman, St. Kevin of Glendalough, who completed his studies under saint Eugene. His name is generally Latinized as Eugenius, but the Irish form is Eoghan (Owen), hence Tir Eoghain, or Tyrone.

2 Responses

  1. Brian Fahy

    Are you going to wear a kilt for the wedding? This question came from my intended. At first I said no, but on reflection I decided yes, and so on the wedding day I, a Lancashire man of Irish extraction, my brother too, appeared like good Scots in kilt and tartan. Last year when my son married, kilts were on display again to mark the occasion with style. Kilts and accessories look great and I loved wearing one.

    The wedding garment in Jesus’ parable is the suitable dress for attendance in God’s kingdom and the very least we can do is present ourselves in a fitting manner to be part of God’s world and God’s ways. If everything else has been prepared for us – creation itself, the wonder of the world, land and sea and bread from the earth – then the least we can do is bring ourselves each day in a fitting manner to be part of the goodness of life.

    Blessed as we are to know the Lord and his goodness, let us rise each day and put on the garment of kindness and gratefulness that we are invited to live in the Lord.

  2. Brian Fahy

    My father and I walked home from the school sports day where I had won many medals. My father walked by my side. I wanted him to put his hand on my shoulder but he didn’t. Many years later I told my mother about that. That is how they were, mum said. They had life hard and poverty was everywhere and showing affection was something that did not happen very much. But your father loved you and was very proud of you.

    Many of us for many reasons find it hard to express our deepest feelings of love. We have had it hard in some way and it has left us uneasy about showing our affections. Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart, it has been written. People can appear to be stony hearted when in truth the heart has been sealed up as in a tomb, a stone rolled across the entrance.

    But we all have a heart of flesh, a heart that dearly wants to love and be loved. The whole dynamic of the gospel and of the mission entrusted to us, disciples of the Lord, is to live in the heart of Jesus and to beat with the love that beats there. Only hearts of flesh can bring other hearts to life, touching us with love. For the renewal of the Church, the people of God, may the Lord burst open the tombs that enclose us and renew us with hearts of flesh.

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