Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 11, 2020 – Year A
Readings: Is 25:6-10A / Ps 23 / Phil 4:12-14, 19-20 / Mt 22:1-14
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Today’s gospel comes from the twenty-second chapter of Matthew. Just a little bit earlier, in chapter twenty-one, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and promptly cleanses the temple. What follows is a series of confrontations with the Jewish leaders. Today, in a parable, Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding banquet.
We’re going to start off with a little quiz, just to test everyone’s knowledge. I won’t ask you to stand up or raise your hand, but just grade yourself in your mind. The Kingdom of Heaven is:
a) when we die, the place where we will go;
b) when Jesus returns in glory at the end of time;
c) right here, right now;
d) all of the above.
If you answered d), good for you, because the Kingdom of Heaven is not just as simple as the place where God lives, and where we hope to go when we die. The Kingdom of Heaven was initiated with the birth of Jesus and it is coming now. We are working to build that kingdom. We can learn a few things about this kingdom from the parable today.
The first thing we learn is that all are invited; not just the special ones. We can’t earn a place at this table, no matter how hard we try. And it’s important to remind ourselves of that. We’re invited, not because we’re worthy, but because God loves us. And sometimes we can fall into the habit of thinking, “Oh, I’ve got this checklist of things I’ve got to do, and I’ve got to do this, got to do this, and not do this, not do this, and then I can go to heaven.” That’s not the point.
Another thing we can learn is that being at this banquet, living in this kingdom, has responsibilities. We’re expected to live in a certain way. We’re expected to do certain things. We’re expected to not do certain things. Not to earn a place, but to try to get as close as we can to being worthy.
A number of years ago, as I started working with couples who were preparing to get married, I put together a marriage checklist, and it occurred to me, as I was reading the reading for today, that, if we can use a wedding banquet as an example of the Kingdom of Heaven, then we can use a marriage to help us understand what it is like to live in that kingdom; to live as a Christian. So, I’d like to share with you just a few points from this checklist that I put together. I put it together through study of scripture and church teachings, but mostly it just came out of things I’ve discovered over the years of being married.
The first thing about life in a marriage: If we want to be good citizens of the kingdom, we have to remember to always love. Deus caritas est. God is love. But Christian love is not this warm, fuzzy feeling. Sometimes it is, we hope, but not always. Because from the Christian point of view, love is caritas: Charity. Service. Thomas Aquinas told us that to love is to will the good of the other. To do; to will. Not to feel. I always counsel couples to every day make the choice to love. Sometimes love is easy in marriage. Sometimes love is easy in the kingdom. Sometimes not so much. So, we have to remind ourselves to make that choice.
Second thing: We need to keep our priorities straight, as Christians and in a marriage. The number one priority in a marriage is God – not our spouse; not our kids; not our job; not our extended families. All these things are important, but God is the most important. And if we keep those priorities straight then it’s easier for everything else to fall into place. Because if our kids become the center of our life, if our job becomes the center of our life, if taking care of our families becomes the center of our life, and not God, things start to fall apart.
The next way a marriage is like living in the kingdom is that we need to know our strengths, and we need to know our weaknesses. Opposites attract for a reason, because our differences make us stronger. Not all of us are good at balancing a checkbook. Not all of us are good at organization. Not all of us are good at counseling people who are struggling or grieving. Not all of us are handy and can struggle to make minor repairs. But if we work together and pool our strengths, the family and the kingdom become stronger.
And the last way a marriage is like living in the kingdom is that we always need to remember our mission. The catechism teaches us that the family is the domestic church, and what is the number one job of the church? It’s to sanctify, to make holy, to make saints. In a marriage, the husband’s job is to get the wife to heaven. The wife’s job is to get the husband to heaven. Together, their job is to get the kids to heaven. And that’s our job: to get as many people to be saints as possible.
If you’ve seen the musical, Hamilton, there’s a really interesting scene in it. Hamilton is talking to George Washington, and George Washington says, “Dying is easy, young man. Living is hard.” The thought of going to Heaven is nice, the thought is easy. The day-to-day actions of getting there can be hard. But we have a king who is just and merciful. We have a king who gives us the grace to do whatever we need. And to paraphrase St. Paul in the second reading: Remember, we can do all things in Him, who strengthens us.