TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
The wedding feast
INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR
Today’s Gospel tells about some people who refused an invitation to a wedding feast, and others who accepted it. We are here because God, in his love, has invited us, and we have accepted his invitation. But mere presence here is not enough. Very important is the spirit in which we come. We should come in a spirit of thankfulness and joy. [Pause]
Lord, you invite us to a banquet of truth and goodness. Lord, have mercy.
You invite us to a banquet of holiness and grace. Christ, have mercy.
You invite us to a banquet of justice, love and peace. Lord, have mercy.
HEADINGS FOR READINGS
First Reading (Isaiah 25:6-10). The image of a banquet is used to describe the blessings God has in store, not only for Israel, but for all nations.
Second Reading (Philippians 4:12-14.19-20). Paul says that for him poverty and riches, hunger and plenty are all the same. With God’s help he can cope with anything life brings.
Gospel (Matthew 2211-14). The strange story of the invited guests who refused to turn up for a wedding feast, with the result that their places were given to others.
The historical context of this parable is quite clear. The first people to be invited to the wedding feast, but who refused, stood for the Jews. Those from the ‘crossroads’, who accepted the invitation, stood for the Gentiles. The banquet was the Kingdom of heaven. Once again we are dealing with a very revolutionary parable. It made the Jewish leaders very angry, because it implied that the Gentiles were about to occupy seats at the banquet which they had always believed were reserved for themselves alone. This said, we are still left with the problem of working out the meaning of the parable for us.
The story might seem a bit far-fetched. I mean who would be so crazy as to turn down an invitation to a royal wedding? But people are foolish. There is a streak in us that not only refuses the good, but can’t even recognise it. God is continually calling us, as individuals and as members of Christ’s community, to a deeper and better life. His call may be very gentle, but it is very insistent and very real. We all hear it from time to time, coming mostly from deep within us. But, alas, this precious invitation is like the seed that fell among the thorns. It gets choked. A brief look at our lives will show that this is true.
There is that letter I know I should write, but just now I am not in the humour. I There is that sick person I know I should visit, but right now my favourite programme is on television.
There are those prayers I know I should say, but right now I’m too tired.
I know I should make an effort to get to Mass on time, but at the last moment something always gets in the way.
I know I should be more charitable towards so and so, but she is not the easiest person in the world to get on with.
I know that dishonesty is wrong, but I excuse my acts of dishonesty by telling myself that everybody does it, and what I do is minor compared to what others are getting away with.
I know I’m not doing my job as well as I should, but why should I break my back when others aren’t pulling their weight?
I know I drink too much, but then I’m under a lot of pressure these days.
I know I should spend more time with my children, but I need that overtime money.
We could go on and on. Each of us, if we got down to it, could draw up quite a long list of things which we know, in our heart of hearts, we should do, or not do, but which we refuse to look at. And we have no shortage of excuses, many of them extremely plausible. They spring up to our defense like over-enthusiastic guards. Defenses, excuses, evasions! How well we know them. But this is a dangerous road to be on.
It is important to notice that the people who refused the wedding invitation did so, not from evil motives, but from perfectly good and reasonable ones. One man wanted to attend to his land; another to his business; and so on. All perfectly good occupations in themselves. But this is precisely what makes them so dangerous. The greatest danger facing us is not that we might abandon God and turn to evil, but rather that we might ignore his invitation. We prefer to devote all our energies to good goals of our own choosing, thus ignoring God’s invitation to something infinitely deeper and better.
There are many ways of saying ‘no’ to an invitation, and there are several degrees of refusal. Let us suppose you are giving a little party in your house. You send out the invitations with an RSVP emblazoned on them. And what happens?
Some say: ‘I’m sorry, but I have something on that night. Thank you all the same for the invitation’. You feel disappointed, but you understand, and in time come to accept it.
Others say: ‘I’m not coming’. Here you meet with a clear and resounding refusal, There may or may not be a reason added. You feel hurt, but at least you know where you stand with these people, and in time you come to accept this too.
From a third group you hear nothing. Not a word. This is the worst kind of refusal of all. You never know Where you stand with these people. If you were to contact them, they would probably say: ‘Oh, I meant to reply, but …’ I meant to! What an empty feeling this leaves you with.
To ignore God’s invitation altogether is the worst form of refusal, It implies indifference. Indifferent people are the hardest to convert. To benefit from the feast one must wear the wedding garment of conversion. But how does one go about converting those who are indifferent, or those who, like the religious leaders of Christ’s day, thought they had no need for conversion?
Jesus said: ‘Blessed are those who come to the banquet of life hungering and thirsting for what is right. They will get their fill’, The invitation is not something that affects us merely as individuals. It is an invitation to come in from the cold and to be part of a community of brothers and sisters. It is the banquet of the new People of God, namely, the Christian community. Christ is the one who reveals to us that we are brothers and sisters, and introduces us to our heavenly Father. At this banquet all our hungers are satisfied. There is nothing so wonderful in all the world.
If you find this hard to believe, just consider the following example. Vincent van Gogh once said that he would give ten years of his life, with nothing but a crust of dry bread for food, provided he could sit before Rembrandt’s picture, ‘The Jewish Bride’.
‘The real truth always sounds improbable’. (Dostoyevsky).
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
God is continually inviting us to the banquet of a fuller, deeper and more spiritual life, a life worthy of our dignity as his sons and daughters. Let us pray for the wisdom to accept this invitation. R. Lord, hear our prayer.
For the Christian community: that it may strive to provide a feast of faith, hope and love for all God’s children, especially the poor. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
For all government leaders: that they may be untiring in their efforts to provide all their people with a feast of freedom, security, and peace. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
For all those who through poverty, illness or oppression are locked out of life’s banquet; for all those who are satisfied as they are, and who feel no hunger for a deeper life. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
That we may experience that inner hunger and thirst for goodness of life Christ spoke about, so that he can fill us. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
Father, your Son Jesus invited us to a banquet of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace. Help us to accept his invitation with all our hearts. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord.
Vincent van Gogh lived a poor and simple life.
In order to buy materials for painting
he often went without food.
He once wrote:
‘My only anxiety is how I can be of use in the world.
But one feels a terrible discouragement,
one feels an emptiness where there might be friendship,
and one exclaims: “How long, my God?”
‘There may be a great fire in our soul,
but no one ever comes to warm himself at it,
and the passerby see only
a little wisp of smoke coming through the chimney,
and pass on their way.
‘So what must one do?
One must go on tending the inner fire
and wait patiently for the hour
when somebody will come and sit down near it
to stay there maybe.
‘Let those who believe in God wait for that hour,
for it will come sooner of later’.