11Oct 11 October, 2020. 28th Sunday, Year A

11 October, 2020. 28th Sunday, Year A

By baptism we are called to the weding feast in the kingdom of God. But somehow, we need get a wedding garment, to take our place at the feast. While the Gospel invites us to reflect on how we are doing, it is not all our own work, says St Paul. It is God’s grace that prompts the good we do. And 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.

Responsorial: Psalm 22

R./: I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit. (R./)

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name,
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort. (R./)

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing. (R./)

Surely goodness and kindness
shall follow me all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever. (R./)

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.”

BIBLE

Tomorrow’s World

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

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

Elderly people may ponder more on the past than the future and to dwell on bygone events and treasured relationships. Their looking forward is more often marked with resignation or anxiety than with hope. In the dignity of their mature years, they accept that “Che sera, sera; whatever will be, will be’. And, if they have learned the habit of prayer, they peace-fully leave their future in God’s hands.

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

Perhaps our predecessors in the faith had a stronger sense of the afterlife than we have 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 must not be abandoned as so much “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 realise 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 of 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 noted the sharp ironies in this parable: “The story is charged with 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, in fact, 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 made welcome. Quite the opposite. He is “bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness.” His offence? 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 in New York rounded up to appear at a wedding and then berated for not being clothed in a tuxedo!”

 

7 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 realise that those who originally 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 guests.

    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 able 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 prayer and anxiety at the time, concerning the individual who had been thrown out, gagged, bound hand and foot, into the darkness, had now been answered, as I now understood the parable. 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.

    The core of the ongoing challenge in all of the gospels is one of spiritual enlightenment, as in “repent” ~ to change direction (the transformation of the human heart).This can only come about in wearing the wedding garment of humility, before our Father in heaven.

    “The wedding garment is sanctifying grace”, (C.f. Rite of Baptism)
    while only humility can ensure that we remain dressed in it.

    Please consider continuing this refection on humility (St. Bernard – Humility is a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself.” See link
    https://acireland.ie/amoris-laetitia-the-joy-of-love-reviewed-by-aidan-hart/#comment-10034

    Kevin your brother
    In Christ

  2. Samala Michael

    I like Kevin’s explanation.
    I read the wedding garment is just appreciating the kings invitation and being graceful. Thank you for sharing your reflections.
    FR Michael Samala

  3. Thara Benedicta

    Key message:

    God does not allow us prolonged sufferings. He gives us comfort and rest in due time.

    Homily:

    Takeaway from first reading:

    When we think about the unconditional love of God, we feel comforted and secured. He is our Father who carries us in His bosom and has written our name in His hand, never to forget us.

    The promises mentioned here – God will wipe away all our tears and will remove the disgrace from His people, comfort us and make us feel secured. When we feel secure, we will not have manipulative mind.

    Security creates happy thoughts and living. When we are secure, we will be happy with ourselves, others and God too. We will be able to connect to whom we are in Christ Jesus.

    God thrills when we say, “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 us.”

    Takeaway from Responsorial Psalm:

    For centuries, Psalm 23 has been one of the favourite Psalms of Christians because it provides us comfort and rest.
    “Fresh and green are the pastures, where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me to revive my drooping spirit.”

    We would have often observed, after a period of suffering in our life, that there will be a period of peace. Our loving God does not allow us to suffer for a prolonged period of time.

    Sometimes the funny behaviour in our part is that during the anointed period of peace we keep thinking about our past agony and feel sorry for ourselves. This drains both our joy and power to live the life which God has entitled us to enjoy. This further leads us to forget his grace and carry bitterness in our hearts instead of glorifying God with our happiness.

    Do we think about our past agony and lose the happiness of our today’s blessings?

    Takeaway from second reading:

    Paul explains in the second reading that neither sorrow nor joy is able to disturb his inner peace. It’s because He has learnt to be content with having Christ alone.

    Are we content in having Christ alone?

    Takeaway from Gospel reading:

    God gives us restful and nourishing breaks in between sufferings. He does not allow anyone to suffer for too great a period of time. In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains the behaviour of people when he invites them to rest and enjoy the heavenly food for our souls.

    Basically this story categorises people into three groups:

    1. People who endured their sorrowing days as per the will of God. But when the suffering phase is over and they are invited to the happy banquet of the Lord, they refuse to relish the food. They do not want to give time for enjoying the rest, but carry on with their business, full of thoughts of the agonising days of the past and filled with self-pity.

    2. People who enjoy the rest prepared for others, even though their time is still due and others refuse to take rest.

    3. People who want to enjoy the rest but fail to do their own duty. God does not allow this to happen. When we fail to do our duty, we will have harder times ahead.

    Like Paul, let’s learn to endure whatever comes with good temper and for the glory of God.
    God is our strength. So let us look up to him, when we wade in troubled waters. God will lead us to meadow and allow us to enjoy peace and rest of mind.

    We should enjoy the rest as God gives us, and not keep lamenting the agonising path of the past. Then the place of rest due to us will be provided. If we complain under the cross, then we intend to remain under the cross.

    Tips for enjoying place of rest:

    1. Believe that God will make a way, when there seems to be no way. In times of suffering, he leads us to restful waters. If you are searching for a job, God will be working to get a suitable job for you. But we will not be able to see, till the appointment letter arrives at our hand.

    2. When you feel you are left alone, remember that we need Christ alone. With Christ alone, we can be content. There are so many stories of single moms, who bring up their children as successful people, relying only on Christ. All is not lost little one, Christ is waiting for you.

    3. Do not fear when friends cheat you, because we do not lead life trusting on our own strengths, but on Christ – who is our real strength.

    4. During a storm do not keep your eyes on the waves. Keep your eyes on God. Do not think about the problem, keep remembering the face of Christ.

    5. God is excited when we wait upon Him. All through the day, keep telling the Lord, “I wait upon you alone”.

    God is thrilled when we wait upon Him. Do not keep looking at the troubled waters, but look at God who is working to lead us to restful waters.

  4. DANIEL PATRICK WALSH

    How about wearing a Covid mask? We had to ask some people to leave our church because they would not put on a mask [robe]. Were they thinking about the common good? Were they humble?

  5. Gilles Njobam cmf

    Thanks Kevin Walters. I like your breakdown of the parable.

  6. Kevin Walters

    FR Michael Samala @ 2
    Thank you, Michael, for your comment while reflecting on your statement

    “I read the wedding garment is just appreciating the king’s invitation and being graceful”

    The Wedding Garment I have read was a simple white over garment/robe provided free of charge by the father of the groom and would have had the effect of creating mutual respect amongst all of the guests, as all would be seen to be of equal worth.

    Quote from previous article on this site
    “First Communion has become a charade, a fashion show, a circus.
    A glass coach was brought down from the North to carry the young person to church for Confirmation.”
    It could be argued that imitation is the best form of flattery. This is one of the dangers of pomp and ceremony, as it has more in keeping with the values of the World than with the Spirit. To bring about change can be difficult, as direct confrontation will not change any bias found within human hearts. I believe that change can be brought about through the help of visual action and time.

    Today the ‘Holy Communion’ garment has become a form of social competition, and this competition often appears to be more intense in poor countries, where large families are often struggling to make ends meet; in not forgetting the wonder of the occasion, simplicity of dress would send out the message to all, that we are all loved equally by God. This white overgarment would be a start, as the divide of gender, would be seen to have been eliminated, as it is on the spiritual plane.

    “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”

    The sacrificial image of Christ is genderless as it is reflected in both male and female, this truth gives Christianity the authority over all other religions to heal the divide between the sexes. As those who dwell on the Tree of Life (true vine), are sustained by the sap of Love/Truth (Holy Spirit) and bear fruit, in Unity of Purpose, the Will of God is singular and gender conveys no privilege. The branches, flowers (those who worship in Spirit and Truth) send forth their scent (Holy Spirit) from their essence, the sacrificial image of Christ and bear fruit.

    This new custom (if accepted) could be carried forward to Confirmation, while priests could wear a white vestment/robe to say Mass, this could eventually extend to all the faithful wearing one on special occasions and feast days, as in, Easter Sunday, Baptisms, etc; creating a culture of equal worth and inclusivity.

    Jesus puts mode of dress into context with these words….

    “Not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one these.” (Lilies of the field)

    The seat of our faith is simple trust in God, and is comparable to the beauty of the single lily Jesus speaks of, that relies on God to grow, blossom and send forth its perfume and multiply, we are asked to do the same. I am sure that the reflection of the simplicity of our hearts, reflected in simplicity of rite, that this ‘gracefulness’ would be pleasing in God’s sight.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  7. Kevin Walters

    Gilles Njobam cmf @ 5

    Thank you, Gilles, for your encouraging comment
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

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