Psalm 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
Ready for the Feast
Our Scriptures today are a continuation of last week’s teaching. In today’s parable, Jesus is clearly teaching that many had been invited to the wedding feast but refused to come. The invitation was eventually extended to anyone who wished to come. However, once they had accepted the invitation they had to prepare themselves accordingly to attend the wedding feast. The parable of the wedding mirrors the reluctance of humanity to accept the will of God. The servants sent out to summon the guests are the prophets. The invited guests are the religious classes and the chosen people who follow the precepts of the law. They refuse the invitation to engage in this new radical life that Jesus was offering them. The final group of guests is the sinners and the poor. Once these people accept the invitation they are expected to clothe themselves accordingly in order to be worthy to attend the feast.
We are being shown that all are invited to experience the kingdom of God by engaging in the message of the gospel. However, once we are invited we must assume the responsibilities and be held accountable for what the kingdom expects of us. The image of the wedding garment is not about educating us as to the importance of the outward appearances, rather it points to the inner dispositions of who we are. If we are to clothe ourselves in anything, we must clothe ourselves in Christ and his teaching of compassion and mercy. Once our attitudes and choices reflect the life of Christ, we will be ready for the feast.
People have traditionally used our gospel today to point out the appropriateness of clothing for church services. While it is important that we make an effort to wear dignified clothing for the celebration of the Eucharist, this is not the point that Jesus makes. When we come to share in the Eucharist, we enter into linear time and stand on the edge of eternity. We become one with one another and with those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. God is not necessarily looking at our outward appearances. Rather, God looks at what is in our hearts and at the reality of our lives. The Lord sees how we respond to his call to make his kingdom known through our words and actions. God holds us accountable for the gift of life that he has given us. We have the opportunity to reach out to others in a way that Christ would reach out to them. In following the call, we will most certainly etch these achievements into the Book of Life. Jesus tells us at the end of the gospel that many are called to hear the message: his message, but few are chosen. Christ’s message has been proclaimed to millions of people around the world. The way in which we attend to God’s Word and respond to others with the attitude of Christ will determine whether or not we are to be considered to be the chosen ones of God. Our free will gives us the choice to say yes or no to the invitation –– to clothe ourselves in Christ and secure our place at the banquet table of eternal life.
The gospel requires that we live in freedom, but also calls us to live with mercy. Kindness and goodness are the hallmarks of God’s reign and his Kingdom. These are the qualities of a true disciple. Is it possible that we will see people in the Kingdom of Heaven who may never have professed that Jesus is Lord? Of course it is! The inner dispositions of the human heart are evidence to God of one’s worthiness to enter into God’s dwelling place. Jesus’ public ministry demonstrated how people were to live in right relationship and treat one another with dignity and respect. Of course he desired that people know him, and in knowing him come to experience the One who sent him. However, there are several reasons why someone may not know Christ. Those who do not know Christ yet live exemplary lives come to know something of God’s goodness and truth. If non-Christians contribute to the building of a civilization of love, their efforts do not go unrecognized. Such people in clothing themselves in goodness and mercy will be seen dressed appropriately to join in God’s Feast!
As we journey through life, inspire us to make known your kingdom in a world waiting for love. May our lives reflect the vocation of our baptism to be people of charity and concern. Help us to be the prophetic voice of the Spirit in situations that need to hear your voice. Let us always remember that our story does not end with the kingdoms of this world, but in the kingdom that we yearn and pray for. Amen.
Why has humanity refused God’s invitation throughout history?
What is important about the last invitation issued by the king?
What does the wedding feast and garment represent?
How has God invited you to participate in the wedding feast?
How do you clothe yourself in Jesus Christ?
Name the ways in which people can experience God’s feast in today’s world?
Wisdom of the Fathers
“One might ask: How is the kingdom of God found? Each of us has a particular path. For some, the encounter with Jesus is awaited, desired, long sought after…For others it happens suddenly, almost by accident, as in the parable of the peasant. This reminds us that God lets Himself be found, because it is He who first wants to meet us, and first tries to meet us. He came to be “God with us.” And Jesus is with us, He is here today. “When you come together in my name, I am with you.” The Lord is here, with us, among us. It is He who seeks us and makes Himself discoverable, even for those who do not seek him. Sometimes He lets Himself be found in unusual places and unexpected times. When Jesus is discovered, one is fascinated, conquered, and it is a joy to leave our usual way of life, sometimes dry and apathetic, to embrace the Gospel, to be guided by the new logic of love and of humble and disinterested service. The Word of Jesus, the Gospel.
How is the kingdom of God possessed? On this point, Jesus is very clear: enthusiasm, the joy of discovery, is not enough… we must put God first in our lives, prefer Him to everything. Giving primacy to God means having the courage to say no to evil, violence, oppression, living instead a life of service to others and in favor of the law and the common good. When a person finds God, the true treasure, they leave a selfish lifestyle and look to share with others the love that comes from God. Whoever becomes a friend of God loves his brothers, is committed to safeguarding their lives and their health, also respecting the environment and nature… This is particularly important in your beautiful land that needs to be protected and preserved. It requires you to have the courage to say no to any form of corruption and lawlessness, it requires everyone to be servants of the truth and to assume every situation in the style of the living Gospel, which is manifested in the gift of self and attention to the poor and the excluded.”
— Pope Francis Homily on July 27th, 2014, Vatican City
image: Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican October 8, 2014. (Catholic News Service photo/Paul Haring)