28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1st Reading: Isaiah 25: 6 – 10

This passage is known as the “Isaiah Apocalypse”.  Isaiah looks ahead to the last age and the end of all time.  This piece, written after the exile, describes the reconstruction that will take place after the destruction of the earth and all its people.  This destruction is a result of the sin of the people.  But all is not lost.  God can turn the tables, change his course, and refrain from striking the mighty blow.  The feast is a sign that he will do it.  He will restore the city on the mountain (Jerusalem).  He will restore ALL people.  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.  This is often a reading at funerals.

Isaiah’s security lies in the covenant with God, not in covenants with Egypt or other nations.  The mysterious power of faith maintains:  God alone is true protection.  Such power will not collapse in the hour of disaster…never must a calamity shake Israel’s trust (The Prophets, A. Heschel, p. 73).  Do you hear it?  Think about the state of our country and the world today…does this give you comfort?

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

This is probably a part of the ‘letter A’ (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 apostolic call 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?

There is a freedom in Paul’s words.  St. Ignatius says, “We should use God’s gifts of creation however they help us in achieving the end for which we were created, and we ought to rid ourselves of whatever gets in the way of our purpose.  In order to do this we must make ourselves indifferent to all creation, to the extent that we do not desire health more than sickness, riches more than poverty, honor more than dishonor, a long life more than a short life, or anything at all in and of itself.  We should desire and choose only what helps us attain the end for which we were created,”(Retreat in the Real World, p26).

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.

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)

Eduard Schweizer ( The Good News According to Matthew, 420-422) says that the last line about the called and the chosen concerns how we respond to God’s invitation: to be ‘called’ means that we take up the initial invitation – to be ‘chosen’ means to preserve in that call to the end. What is meant therefore is that we who are called by God must not look on this call as something that is ours by right; we must live it anew each day (choose) trying always to put on the Lord Jesus.

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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