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As we look at the Scripture for this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we see that there is a common theme. I would describe that theme as an invitation in the First Reading from Isaiah, and it’s part of the first part of Isaiah.
As you might recall, Isaiah is made up of three parts, expanding over – covering many, many years. The first part is Isaiah responding to the invitation of God to become God’s spokesperson. As that part of Isaiah then progresses, there is an awareness of struggle on the part of the people, and Isaiah is addressing that struggle. It is a struggle that has caused the people in a sense to become very down-hearted.
And so when you come to this particular section of Isaiah, the invitation is to this great feast. It is invitation to what can best be described as a messianic banquet: rich food, choice wine. But always interesting enough, on the mountain – they’re invited to the mountain. And in a sense the invitation can best be described, I think, as an invitation to a people who are burdened to dream: to dream of a better moment, to dream of what comes from hearing God’s word. Trusting in God and then dreaming of the vision of what God will bring into being.
When you come to the Second Reading, Paul writing again to one of the communities of faith that he is responsible for, he also is offering an invitation – he’s saying that he has learned how to live in good times and he’s learned to live in struggling times, and the key is that he has accepted the invitation to live in Christ. And he says and that’s where he gets the strength, both in the good times and in the bad times, in the struggling times, where he gets the strength to be ever faithful. So that he can end that particular section with that very beautiful phrase of gratitude: gratitude to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
When you come to the Gospel, it’s very clear that Matthew is capturing here an invitation. The king extends an invitation to come to the wedding feast of the son. Well again, we know that the parables – while they’re very concrete in many ways and the sense of the concreteness of the language is always an element of what’s behind, what’s behind the message. And certainly, in this particular case, it’s very clear that what Jesus is referring to is the invitation to the time of the messiah. It’s the invitation to see the fulfillment of God’s plan beginning to make itself present. And we know that God’s plan making itself present in the scripture is always described with the image of a wedding feast, because the key to understanding what God is accomplishing is the fact that God recognizes there’s a separation – there’s a separation between us and God. That separation is sin, where we basically turn away, but we go in our own direction. And so God is ever inviting us to come to a celebration of unity of being at one with God. That’s the great marriage feast that God unites the human with divine and brings it together in a great feast of celebration: a feast of joy, a feast of abundance.
But as we hear, the king’s invitation is rejected. People are too busy going about their own way, and some not only, say I don’t have time for your invitation. But they actually become violent, they become violent, they kill the messengers. Well probably what was being referred to there, or implied was the history of salvation, because if you trace the history of salvation from the moment of Exodus onward. You find that God has ever been issuing invitations, but those invitations oftentimes were not accepted, and sometimes they were violently rejected. Jesus often makes reference to the fact that the prophets were killed – those who were God’s spokesmen were eliminated because the thought was if we eliminate the spokesperson of God, we eliminate God’s interference in our life.
Well certainly that’s a reference here that’s being made by Jesus, and since it’s being made in the concreteness of the time, because Jesus is saying to the Scribes and the Pharisees, you’re doing the same thing. I have come, I have come as the ultimate invitation of God inviting you to join in the oneness of God’s life, but you are too busy holding on to your old ways, thinking that you are protecting the Law and the traditions. That you’re protecting, in a sense, your image of what the faith is to be about. The invitation again, rejected.
You know Jesus has the king invite everyone. It’s a very interesting thing because he sends them out to the highways and the byways. He sends them out to everyone – good and bad, and invites all to come to the banquet, to come and partake of the gift of salvation.
But when the king enters the banquet hall and sees all of the people gathered, there he finds one who is not wearing a wedding garment. You might say well what does that mean? Well in the tradition of Judaism, when you would go to a wedding feast, there would be as you enter a table and the table would have wedding garments – in the sense of the yarmulke, the headpiece, as well as other items of clothing that would be offered to everyone coming, because the recognition would be that not everybody coming is of the faith. And so the king or the owner or the one who invites and makes sure that everything is there for everyone to be in the proper protocol for this great event. But this individual for some reason chose not to do that – maybe he just came out of curiosity and said let me go in and see what all these people are coming together about. I don’t know, but for some reason he chose not to follow the protocol, and so the king has him ejected.
But the point of the story, the point of the parable is again to be open to the invitation and to conform to the will of the one who invites. And in that sense you go back to the Second Reading and you see how Paul is basically saying, I heard the invitation. I was knocked off my horse on the way to Damascus. I heard the invitation and my heart and mind were open to it, and I came to realize, I came to realize the invitation was to a new moment, to a great celebration, to a unification between God and the human family. And I embraced that invitation. I made it become a part of my life. Or more likely Paul would be saying, I allowed God to make it a part of my life and because I allowed God to make that a part of my life, I’m not disturbed by the good or the bad.
In the sense it’s not I’m oblivious to them, but I don’t allow myself to get so excited. In my prosperity that I begin to think, wow, look what I’ve been able to accomplish. Look what I’ve been able to do. Look what I’ve got, and I’m not depressed by the hard times, because I know that God is with me and I am in God. And that gives me the strength to go on.
I think as we look at all of this and put it together, we recognize the centrality of the Eucharist, the centrality of the Eucharist. For the Eucharist is the banquet. It’s the foretaste of the ultimate banquet, but it is the banquet of the moment. It’s the banquet where the invitation is offered over and over and over again: come into me, be part of my life.
I always remember and I’ve mentioned on many occasions with you the great words of Saint John Paul II in one of the, I think it was in his encyclical on the Eucharist, and he said, you know, when we come to the altar, we’re filled with that sense of, look what I’m doing, I’m coming to receive Christ, to eat of the body and blood. Look what I’m doing. Happening – what’s happening? I’m coming. Is that, you heard the invitation and by your action, your amen, you’ve accepted the invitation, the invitation of Christ, to live in him, to join with him in the praise of the Father? The conformity of our life to the will of the Father, all by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray, my brothers and sisters, that that will always be the dream, the vision by which we live our lives, day in and day out.