[Reflection on The Word] Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 25:6-10 / Psalm 23/Phil 4:12-14, 19-20/ Matthew 22:1-14
Theme: God’s Generous Offer of Salvation.
The readings of today bring to sharp focus God’s gratuitous gift to mankind. We cannot underestimate any longer the fact that God takes the initiative in saving us.
As a result of Original Sin, our mind is darkened and our will weakened; indeed man has lost the sense of sin. Our God, whose steadfast love remains eternal is aware of the human condition and never, abandons His own. The first reading is an indication of God’s initiative to rescue fallen humanity.
The prophet says, “On this mountain the Lord of host will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines…” (Isaiah 25:6). It is important to note that this feast excludes no one; it is devoid of status, race, colour and the like. It is God who takes the initiative to invite us; so it is His gratuitous gift to us. The Letter to the Hebrews makes it more explicit, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to innumerable angels in festal gathering and to the assembly of the first born who are enrolled in heaven and to God the judge of all and to spirits of the righteous made perfect…” (Hebrews 12:22-24).
Isaiah gives us an eschatological (the end times) picture of our eventual union with God. He says, “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…” (Isaiah 25:7-8).
In the Gospel reading of today, God the Father is still inviting the people of Israel to come, in spite of what they did to His Son. Matthew’s parable of the wedding feast and the declined invitations (22:1-14) is the last of three successive parables of judgment (beginning in 21:28) against Israel, especially her leadership. There are obvious connections among the three parables. Each has an “authority figure” (father, landowner and king, respectively). “Sons” or “a son” appear in all three and the destruction of those opposed to His son.
The wedding feast has and will always be ready but mankind has always rejected God’s generous offer of salvation. Indeed, God never relents in this offer for he commanded the servants, “Go, therefore, into the main streets and invite everybody 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 guest” ( Matthew 22: 9-10). However, the king found one who was not in a wedding garment. Amazing! This tells us that even though God’s offer of salvation is universal, we must justify our inclusion with deeds namely willingness to submit ourselves to him.
The succession of invitations corresponds to God’s declaration of truth concerning his Kingdom and his Son — first to Israel and then to the Gentile nations. Matthew presents the kingdom in its double aspect, already present and something that can be entered here and now (1-10) and something that will be possessed only by those present members who can stand the scrutiny of the final judgment (11-14).
Matthew’s addition of the guest without the wedding garment can certainly leave the reader perplexed. I think that Matthew wants to lay emphasis on the communal and individual aspect of the kingdom of God namely even though we have all been called, we are responsible individually to ourselves. Was it not the king who commanded his slaves to go out to the highways and byways and bring in anyone they could find? How then could the king be so cold and harsh to someone who has been “rounded up” for the royal feast, without even having the time to procure clean and proper clothing?
It is important to recall that this story is an allegory and things do not necessarily follow normal ways of thinking and acting. Some scholars believe that the king provided the proper attire for his guests. It is not surprising then that the king becomes furious upon seeing a man improperly attired. This shows that this man deliberately refuses to receive the generous gesture of the king on providing proper attire.
Again, the saying: “For many are called, but few are chosen,” should not be taken as a forecast of the proportion of the saved to the damned. Rather the saying is meant to encourage vigorous efforts to live the Christian life. The wedding feast is the Church but at the same time the age to come. Matthew’s parable confronts us with the paradox of God’s free invitation to the banquet with no strings attached and God’s requirement of “putting on” something appropriate to that calling.
Every day in the Mass, Jesus offers us his generous gift of salvation so that we can be better equipped in this age of apathy, rationalism, sexual explosion, humanism and the like. St. Paul gives us an assurance that in the midst of all these challenges, God is even more generous because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Indeed, Christ is the Good Shepherd who never leaves his flock untended, says the Psalmist. For some of us, it is certain habits we formed in our formative years that are making it impossible for us to respond to God’s offer of salvation. The Good Shepherd says come as you are. He is calling you today; he is waiting to lead you greener pastures.
In sum, God is still inviting us to the banquet. Fortunately for us Catholics, we not only celebrate the present reality of the heavenly banquet (the Mass) but in the company of the Angels and Saints, we celebrate our future union with God in the same Mass; indeed, we celebrate HEAVEN ON EARTH.
Like those invited to the banquet who gave excuses, many of us are giving excuses for not attending the banquet (Sunday Mass). Many still attend without participating fully in the meal due to marriage issues or sin. Let us beware that when we fail to participate in this earthly banquet which is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, the consequence is total separation from God. Oh what a tragedy it is not to see the face of God again?
Source: Rev. Fr. Aaron Agorsor
Facebook: I Thirst