28th Sunday in Ordinary
A Homily - Cycle A - 2004-2005
First Reading - Isaiah 25:6-10a
Responsorial Psalm - 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Second Reading - Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
Gospel - Matthew 22:1-14 or 22:1-10
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast."' Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.' The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment? But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.' Many are invited, but few are chosen."
We traditionally celebrate two Marian months every year: May and October. In this month of October, we not only celebrate Our Lady of Fatima's feast-day on October 13, but we also celebrate Our Lady of the Holy Rosary on October 7. So, it is my hope that pursuant to Our Lady's request at Fatima, we all take time to pray the rosary every day as couples, as families or as single people living in the world. The rosary is a powerful tool against the snares of the devil; it is a mini-catechism of the mysteries of the lives of Jesus and Mary here on earth and in heaven. The constant repetition of the Hail Mary affords us the opportunity to breathe the words of Mary's spirituality and make them our own.
Today's Gospel is somewhat similar to last week's Gospel in that both passages serve as parables that allegorically convey the story of salvation history. You'll recall last week's Gospel and the wicked servants who both refused to hand over the vineyard owner's produce - they even went so far as to mistreat and kill both the messengers and the landowner's son. Once again, Jesus gives us another view of the Kingdom of heaven. In this analogy, the king is God the Father, who prepares a wedding feast for His Son, Jesus. The king dispatches servants to invite guests to the feast. These first guests may be likened to Adam and Eve, who, like the invited guests, refuse to come. The king then invites a second group, the Jews. The Jews mistreat and even kill some of the servants, the prophets. Finally, the king invites a third group of guests to the wedding feast, the Gentiles - both the good and the bad alike, who are taken from the highways and byways.
It would be very simple to end the homily here, having made the connections between the parable and salvation history. And yet, there is so much more to ponder as we are the new Chosen People.
First, there is the theme of the wedding feast. Throughout salvation history, God has always understood His relationship with us in nuptial terms. Genesis begins with a covenant between God and man. The Book of Revelation ends with the great wedding feast of the Lamb. Christ performed His first miracle at a wedding. The prophets throughout the Old Testament liken Israel to God's bride when she is faithful and to a prostitute if she is unfaithful to God because of her sin. Time and time again, God invites us into a nuptial relationship with Him - a life of covenant fidelity.
Then there is the issue of the reactions of those invited to the wedding. Take, for example, the response of the second group of invited wedding guests. The Gospel states, "Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his arm, another to his business. The rest of the invitees laid hold of the kings' servants, mistreated them and killed them." Here, Jesus is issuing a warning to us - He asks us to consider, honestly, where we tend to kill off His message, His invitation to covenant fidelity. He asks us to ponder where we ignore His voice or make other things more important than He. How often do we set up ambitious spiritual goals but keep putting off the start date? And, when we start, how often do we fall away from our original zeal and make work or studies or affairs of the home first in our lives? How often do we stunt our interior growth by watching too much television, instead of doing spiritual reading or enjoying some golden silence with our Lord? These are simple but important questions to answer. Christ invites us to consider the answer today.
Finally, what are we to make of the guest who came to the wedding inappropriately dressed? What does this mean for us? The Fathers of the Church liken the wedding garment to the virtue of charity - love. And while we can always use this scene in Matthew's gospel to describe what God thinks of those who come to Mass inappropriately dressed, there are deeper implications:
First, it is not enough to have a private relationship with Jesus - just Jesus and me. Rather, we are called to produce works of charity and service to our neighbor. This is how we make our wedding garment more ornate and more ample. There are many persons who will come to Mass every Sunday and even confess monthly, but won't give any attention to their brother or sister in need, either through their time, talent or treasure or even simply praying for them. In other words, we are responsible for each other. We will be asked by the king about the status of the wedding garment we were given at baptism and to show for our good works, either in actual service and/or in prayer.
Second, we cannot rely simply upon being Catholic to ensure that we will go to heaven. If we are not taking people with us to heaven, we may have the same reaction to the king's question of the guest found inappropriately dressed - we will be reduced to silence. A simple example illustrates this point: During the Mass of Priesthood Ordination, the bishop anoints the hands of the ordinandi with chrism. The hands are almost soaked with the chrism, consecrating the hands for the priest's sacred duties, especially in the sacraments. After this ritual, the ordinandi take a few moments to wipe off the chrism onto a linen that is then sealed and kept for the priests for their respective first Masses, the following day.
On the day of his first Mass, the priest, before imparting the final blessing upon the congregation, expresses his gratitude to his family and friends present who have supported his vocation and years in the seminary. The newly ordained priest first presents his father with the stole with which he heard his first confession (usually the night before or that morning). Then, he presents his mother with that linen containing the sacred chrism from the ordination, still aromatic. The tradition is that the mother of a priest is buried with that linen wrapped around her hands so that when she meets our Lord for judgment and He asks her what she did in her life, she can say, "I gave you a priest - here's my proof - NOW LET ME IN!" And yet, every mother of every priest should know full well that it is not enough to have that linen in hand - she has to have lived a life of virtue herself.
As we proceed through this month of October, this month of our Lady, the mother of the great high priest, let us turn to her and beg her to secure the graces we need to make our wedding garments ample and ornate with good works of charity. May we not be reduced to silence when the king asks us about our wedding garment on our last day. Rather, may we realize the wish of the Psalmist who exclaims, "I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life."
Praised by Jesus Christ! Now and forever!
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