28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 12, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Is 25:6-10a; Psalm 23; Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt 22:1-14
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
For the third Sunday in a row, Jesus is criticizing the chief priests and elders, and once again, he is speaking to them in parables. He is admonishing them for failing to live up to the spirit of the Law and the Old Covenant. Unlike the last two Sundays where vineyards featured prominently, in this Gospel reading, Jesus uses the image of a party, a wedding feast, and the image is rich in meaning and symbolism.
The feast itself represents the Kingdom of God, the glorious time and place that is in store for those who follow the will of God. The king, of course, is God and the son who is getting married is Jesus. The guests who ignore the invitation are all the people who reject the Gospel, and the people who are invited in their place are the ones who accept Jesus and his teaching. The burning of the city is a allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans which will happen in 70AD.
These images and symbols are all very familiar to me, but two things caught my attention for the first time this week. The first is this: the servants are instructed to “invite to the feast whomever you find.” The servants went out and invited everyone, “bad and good alike.” Really? Everybody? I think most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, are not completely comfortable with the thought of sharing a feast with everyone.
The invitation to follow Christ is offered to everyone, the people that we like as well as the ones that we don’t; the people that we comfortable being around as well as the people that make us uncomfortable. Everyone is invited; the poor, the rich, the weak, the strong, the sick, the healthy, the liberals, the conservatives, the law-abiding, the convicted criminals. They are not just invited to some little parish far away. They are supposed to be invited here as well.
A second thing struck me about this Gospel when I ask myself, “Where am I in this parable?” What occurs to me is that we are the servants. We have already answered an invitation. Some of us were brought here as children by our parents. Some came on our own as adults. Regardless of when and how we accepted the invitation, we are now in the service of the King and his Son. We are called to “Go … and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” (Mt 28:19) It is our job to invite others to the party and to invite “whomever (we) find.” Not just our friends and family but “the bad and good alike.”
This can be hard and it can be quite uncomfortable. There is always the temptation to label someone and dismiss them as unworthy of a seat at the table of the feast, even though we are not worthy ourselves. We often let divisions and differences get in the way of the festivities. This should not surprise us, because the devil knows that division among Christians interferes with our evangelization efforts.
Pope Francis recently encouraged us all to guard our hearts against these “temptations of the devil.” He went on to say, “How often do bad thoughts, bad intentions, jealousy, envy enter?” His remedy for this is a daily examination of conscience. To ask ourselves, “What happened in my heart today? What passed through my heart?”
This Eucharist that we celebrate today is the wedding feast of the bride groom, our Lord Jesus Christ, but it is just a foretaste of what awaits us in heaven. It should be our goal to bring others along, to invite everyone that we encounter in our lives.
This is especially hard when there are so many out there who do not yet believe the good news. There are people who mock us or even hate us for what we believe. But if we can focus on the prize, on finishing the race, the joy of the heavenly banquet – and God our Father’s desire for all to come – we can live our lives as Pope Francis has challenged us to do. We need to look to his example.
How many times have you heard, “I’m not Catholic – or, I’m not religious – but I LOVE YOUR POPE.” Shouldn’t that tell us something? That this is how it all begins, to bring others to Christ. Living his words. Living his love. R.D. Ward spoke this morning about the Sowers of Seeds – the Holy Name of Mary New Evangelization team. We are all called to take part in this. While this is not always easy, we are all up to the challenge because, “(We) can do all things through Christ who strengthens (us).”