Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 15, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 25:6-10a / Ps 23 / Phil 4:12-14, 19-20 / Mt 22:1-14
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
The world is full of opportunities knocking on our doors, just waiting for us to open them. It is full of opportunities for us to live life to the fullest. However, they are not always present. We must seize the opportunity while we still have the time and the opportunity, or else we will end up blaming ourselves, not others.
An invitation is an example of an opportunity knocking on our door, waiting to be opened. But rather than getting up to open the door, we sometimes whine about the noise.
There was a story of a young man who went away to other places in search of fortune. A few years later, he returned to his home with trucks loaded with riches. “Now I’m going to play a trick on my relatives and friends,” he said to himself. He donned some ragged clothes and went to see his cousin Mike first. “I’m your long lost cousin,” he said. “I’m back home after several years in other places. Just look at me, how miserable I am. May I stay with you for a while?” he said. Mike said, “I’m sorry, but there’s no room here for you.”
The man visited some more of his relatives and friends, but he was not accepted by any of them. So he decided to return to where he had left his riches, dressed himself in luxurious clothes, rode through this place with a large entourage of servants, purchased all the businesses about to close down, and began to build a majestic mansion. After only a few days, the news of his riches had spread all over the place.
“Who could have imagined it?” asked one of the relatives and friends who had rejected him. “If we had only known, we would have acted differently. But it is too late now; we’ve missed the riches.”
The readings today show us what joy there is in accepting God’s invitation and what sorrow there is in refusing. The word of God challenges us to examine our own response to His call. God extends to us the greatest invitation we will ever receive: Come to the feast. Come to the banquet of eternal life. Sooner or later, each of us has to give Him an answer. Our RSVP can either be “Yes, I’m coming,” or “No, I will not come.” The choice is ours and it has eternal consequences.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable directed to the chief priest and the elders. A king arranges a wedding banquet for his son, and sends out his servants to call the guests. Strangely, the invited guests flatly refuse to come. When the king tries again, those being invited treat the servants shamefully, even violently.
When we first read this, it may sound absurd. People simply don’t act that way when they are invited to a royal feast. Why would anyone respond so negatively when being invited to something so wonderful? But the parable is not about an earthly wedding feast. It is about the Kingdom of God. Jesus is exposing the disgraceful ways in which we respond to Him. Like the invited guests, sometimes we simply refuse for no logical reason. We do not want to be bothered. When we hear God’s call, His words, His commandments, His prompting in the heart, we reject it, without even considering it. Other times, we consider other things more important right now: our farm or business, or any number of high priority matters. God’s will is simply not that important to us.
Then there are times when we have an outrageous reaction to God’s invitation. We do not literally kill the messenger, but the word of truth can make us hostile and defensive. When we are called to repentance, we get angry. We act as if we have been imposed upon, or insulted, or threatened. Interiorly, we fight, complain, ridicule, resist. What at first seems to be a rather absurd reaction by some strange people in a parable becomes, upon closer inspection, a disconcerting reflection of our own hearts.
God truly is like a king who wants to fill His banquet hall with guests. The blessings He has in mind for us are symbolized by the glorious feast so beautifully described in the first reading. The prophet Isaiah foretells a feast of rich foods and choice wines, which the Lord of Hosts will provide for all peoples.
There is more to this feast than good food. This is a prophecy of eternal life. God promises that He will destroy death forever. The veil of mourning that enshrouds all peoples and nations, the tears that are shed by every generation, the wave of death that ensnares every person will be destroyed.
What God is inviting us to is a victory celebration: a feast of everlasting rejoicing, a life without tears, or mourning, or death; everything we mean by the word Heaven.
In our Lord’s time, wedding invitations went out well in advance, and were accepted definitively. The final call just before the event occurred was a mere formality. It would be an unspeakable insult to decline when the final call arrived. They had already accepted and had made their firm commitment. And so the master in the parable sends out messengers to the highways and byways, that is, to everyone, respectable or not. All are invited. From now on the invitation is being made, not to a select and exclusive minority of privileged people, but to the wider public forum, to all people. All who respond are welcome. There is no special preference anymore. Sinners, outcasts, gentiles—and you—are all invited.
Those accepting the invitation are not any better than those who declined. It’s just that the poor and the outcasts, not having any other options and seeing what a rare gift this was, accepted and attended. Again, it reminds us not to be complacent or superior, as all of us are truly blessed to be invited.
This parable reminds us that this invitation is for all of us. But the invitation can be refused. The kingdom is open to all, but guaranteed to none. We don’t earn the kingdom, but we sadly can decline it, which would be madness.
One final thought: The waifs and strays enter the banquet, but then one gets kicked out for not wearing a wedding garment. It seems unfair at first glance. Consider, however, that although the invitation is for all, acceptance means a change of standards and values. These are symbolized by being clothed in the garment that resembles and represents the baptismal garment of goodness and Christ-like living. We must wear this robe with devotion and humility, keeping the Gospel values of Christ in our hearts, very central and very safe.