28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle A

1st Reading: Isaiah 25: 6 – 10

Smell the rich foods.  Imagine the mouth-watering sights and tastes.  This is a feast like no other.  With whom would you want to celebrate this feast?  See their faces.  Hear their voices – their laughter – their stories.  God invites all people to this feast.  God promises that all tears will be wiped away.  God has removed our sins.  God has saved us all.

This passage is particularly noteworthy as it is the earliest expression in the scriptures that God intends to conquer death.  The banquet is a sign that joy (the wine) will reign triumphant over anguish (the veil over the people).  The early church believed the eucharist to be the eschatological banquet here on earth while they were awaiting the glorious banquet in heaven (Birmingham, W&W, p. 538).  Consider who is present, seen and unseen, at this banquet with you at the Lord’s Table.

2ND Reading – Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20

This is probably a part of the ‘letter A’ (remember this Letter to the Philippians is most likely made up of 3 or 4 letters) which is a thank you note that Paul was writing while in prison in Ephesus. Paul seems to see his call as apostle as a call to accept not only the good things that are a part of this life of service, but also the difficulties and hardships — what he would call the cross.  Because the Philippians are uniting themselves with Paul, he sees that as their willingness to share his hardships.  (Celebration, Oct. 10, 1999; “Scripture  in Depth”  http://liturgy.slu.edu.)

We have all had times when we lived paycheck-to-paycheck and other times when we could afford the big vacation.  Throughout all of these times, where was God for you?

The Gospel: Matthew 22: 1-14

Isaiah’s feast is on top of the mountain; the Psalm places it in a pasture (23); the Gospel banquet is a wedding feast and celebration.  Compare to Luke 14:16-24 which scholars say may be the older version.  It leaves out the verse on burning the city.

William Barclay says these verses form not one parable, but two, and they should be read separately to gain the most insight (Verses 1-10 and 11-14). He says we should be impressed in these stories with the unwillingness of the guests to come and to celebrate together AND the repeated patience and invitations of the king.

Here are other ideas he says to consider:

  1. God’s invitation is an invitation to joy, to love, to new life — a wedding!
  2. The things that get in our way of responding to God’s invitation are usually not bad things in themselves. The excuses that were offered were about daily life and normal business affairs. Yet this parable can be a warning: WE CAN BE SO BUSY MAKING A LIVINGTHAT WE FAIL TO MAKE A LIFE!

God’s love and life extended to us (GRACE) is a free gift – a surprisingly wonderful gift. We need to be open to God’s surprises and, like all gifts, it must be opened and used – God wants our response and our participation.

From Mary Birmingham in combination with John Pilch:

Jesus –and the early Christians who tried to ‘put on the Lord Jesus’ – were called to live and practice inclusive table fellowship.  This caused many problems, but also became the very heart of what it meant to be Christian. [Even the position of the participants had to be pondered and decided in the light of what Jesus asked of them.  Thus, they decided to stand as servants around the table of Eucharist.] If we come to God’s feast, we must come to participate, to respond, to ‘put on the Lord Jesus’ as the early Christians would say . . . or we will be cast into darkness (an image for a place without God’s love).

The second part of the Gospel parable is concerned with the wedding clothes. What do you think the clothes mean? Clothes were considered a sign of the real person – the outward sign of our essential character. For example, 1 Peter 5:5 says to “clothe yourselves with humility.” ((from Kittel’s  Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). This parable of Matthew makes clear that God’s call requires a response: a changed life. We do not need to have the garment of God’s grace to be invited; it is freely given. But it does mean that we need to put it on if we wish to stay and participate. (Word and Worship Workbook, Year A, p.539-541; The Cultural World of Jesus, 149)

From The Word into Life, Cycle A:

These scriptures challenge us to face the fact that we often like to insulate ourselves and isolate ourselves from others.  We choose not to become involved.

Yet, our God is a God of relationship. God refuses to be left alone!  The royal wedding feast is a symbol of God’s love and union with his creation, and it is open to everyone. Parties are an apt image for Christian involvement.  They force us to think of relationships.  They move us to create an atmosphere of festivity.  They remind us of the centrality of community.  But whom shall we invite to our parties?  We generally think of all those ‘nice’ people who will return the favor by inviting us to their homes.  Today’s liturgy suggests that we expand our vision and look especially to those who are hurting.  Will we attempt to wipe away tears, as Yahweh does in the first reading?  Will we try to offer protection to the harassed, as Yahweh does in the responsorial psalm?  Will we seek to provide hope for outsiders, as the king does in the gospel?  We know people who belong in these categories.  The challenge is to act upon this awareness and send out the invitations.

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2 responses

  1. I used to have a problem with the end of the reading, where one of the guests is cast out for not wearing a wedding garment. It seemed to me uncharitable that someone hastily invited from among the poor would be expected to have fancy clothes. I heard the “spiritual” explanations: how we’re expected to respond to God’s grace with righteousness; but found them unsatisfying at the literal level of interpretation. And then I had two experiences: In one, we were invited to a surprise birthday party with a luau theme, and all the guests were given leis. Even the most straight-laced of guests put them on. The other was a Jewish wedding, where, for the ceremony, all the male guests were offered orchid yarmulkes (matching the gowns of the bridesmaids). Even the wedding garments, even the righteous response to grace, is a gift from God.

    1. Well said! I think there is something to be said about the spirit in which we go to God’s house, or anyone’s house really. It’s not that we have to wear our Sunday best, but that we took the time to be prepared, that we cared enough to put some effort into it. That said, I’ll be the first to admit that my own children have been known to come to church in ratty T-shirts and sneakers on occasion when we were hard-pressed for time. I rationalized that at least they were there. Hopefully their spirit was prepared, if not their appearance…which I guess is the point anyway.

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