Called, Chosen, and Well-Dressed for the Banquet, Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), October 9, 2011 Audio Homily

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Anthony of Padua Church, New Bedford, MA
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
October 9, 2011
Isaiah 25:6-10a, Ps 23:1-6, Phil 4:12-14 19-20, Mt 22:1-14

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click at the bottom of the page. The following text guided this homily:

CALLED, CHOSEN AND WELL-DRESSED FOR THE BANQUET

  • In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to us about the kingdom of heaven, the invitation he has given us to join him there forever, and about how we need to respond to that invitation. He does so within the context of a parable about salvation history in which he illustrates for us, basically, how NOT to respond. He concludes the parable by saying, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” We are all here because we want to be numbered among the “chosen few.” Let’s pay close attention to what Jesus tells us today so that we will be!
  • Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding banquet a king is throwing for his son. This banquet will be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah from the first reading, where there will be a true feast, where we will say, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” God wants to invite all people to this feast, he wishes all people to be saved, but there are three parts of this parable that we need to ponder:
  • The first is the invitation
    • Jesus says that the King sent his servants to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. When they didn’t respond the first time, he sent other servants, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’” But again they made light of it. One went to his farm, another to his business, and yet others seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The servants that Jesus has been talking about up until now are the prophets who had been sent by God to invite the Jews to this feast, but, as we talked about last week in Jesus’ parable of the tenant farmers in the Master’s vineyard, all of the prophets were mistreated and killed by the people receiving this invitation to communion with God, to heaven.
    • But God kept inviting. He said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.” This is the mission of the Church. Beginning from the apostles down to our own age, we are sent out into the streets and invite all we find, both good and bad. Everyone is invited. One author described the Catholic Church in these words: “Here comes everyone!” We don’t have a Church only for the good and the holy. All are invited. We shouldn’t be surprised that in the Church we find great saints and great sinners, that we find the faithful and the hypocrites. All are invited. We’ll come back to this point a little later.
    • What I’d like to focus on now, however, are our priorities. Why didn’t the ones first called come to the banquet? They all excused themselves from it thinking something else was more important. St. Luke remembers Jesus’ words with even greater precision: “At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’  Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’  Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come’” (Luke 14:17-10). One used his home as an excuse, another his job, a third his family. None of them mentioned that they wanted to go out and wreak havoc by doing evil. No, all of them were interested in good things, but things that became relative evils for them because they prevented them from something better. When it came down to a choice between the wedding banquet and these other tasks, the wedding banquet lost. The King lost. God lost.
    • So the first application for us is whether God is truly our priority, whether he comes first, whether we sacrifice other things for him or whether we sacrifice him for other things. This is one of the reasons why throughout the history of the Church the saints have applied this parable to the Mass, not just because the Mass is a banquet with the choicest food of all, but because it is the foretaste of heaven. Our whole attitude toward God, toward heaven, toward God’s kingdom is often evidenced by how we respond to the invitation Jesus makes to us of the Mass. On Holy Thursday, Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover meal with you.” Jesus always eagerly desires to share the Mass with us. More than the greatest saint hungers to receive the Lord in Holy Communion, the Lord desires to feed us. He wants us present at Mass more than the most loving mother wants all her kids present at Thanksgiving dinner. But very often we hear the same excuses given for missing Mass as is found in the parable Jesus uses: people prioritize work over God, fixing up the house over God, family over God, sleep over God, even Sunday cartoons or NFL preview shows over God.
    • For us to come to the kingdom of heaven, we first need to prioritize God, to accept his invitation, to treat it as the awesome privilege it really is and not take it for granted. The way we know we’re doing so is by the way we prioritize Jesus’ eager invitation to the Mass, which is the great banquet of all those who are called. The very word “Church” comes from the word ekklesia, which means those having been called! Those having been invited!
    • That’s the first thing we learn from this parable, that God invites everyone and that each of us needs to prioritize God over the other good and important things in life. Without that prioritization, we won’t enter the kingdom.
  • Vesture
    • The second thing we learn is about how we’re supposed to arrive when we respond to the invitation.
    • In the parable, Jesus says, ““But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
    • At first glance, it might seem that the King is a little nuts. He commanded his servants to invite everyone to the feast and then he’s picky about what they’re wearing? The truth is that in the ancient world, when kings would invite everyone to the feast, they, knowing that many would be poor and not have proper vesture, would in general send out the royal tailors to make proper clothing for everyone who was invited or in some other way provide the fitting clothing. It would be like a rich man today inviting a bunch of homeless people to a black-tie dinner but then giving them free hotel rooms to shower and free tuxedos, shoes and gowns to wear. With this history, it’s not difficult any longer to recognize why the king would be so upset about seeing this improperly attired man. This man deliberated refused to wear the clothing that was required and made available.
    • For all of us, it’s not enough just to show up. We,too, have to be properly dressed for the feast.
    • What clothing has been provided for us? What does God want us wearing? What clothing is fit for this banquet?
    • St. Paul describes the vesture in two of his letters.
      • In his letter to the Colossians, he described,  “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience … Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:12-14).
      • On another, he talks about our clothes as a spiritual armor: “Therefore put on the whole armor of God: … fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.  As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:11-17).
      • We can get the picture. The wedding garments God wants us to don are weaved with acts of faith, love, hope, kindness, compassion, humility, patience, truth, holiness.
    • To make the image even simpler, more concrete, and more specific, God wants us to show up with the garment he himself gave us when we became his adopted children. As we were vested with our baptismal garment, the priest said to us, “ You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.” Christ himself is meant to be our garment! He is the source of Christian dignity. As long as we live in him, clothe ourselves in him, then we will always be ready and unstained for eternal life.
    • To talk about arriving properly dressed means we’re adorned in our baptismal graces, we’re living the life with Christ that flows from our baptism, we’re living a moral and holy life.
    • This is so important today. The Church is not only “Here comes everyone!” in which all people are invited, but it is also a means by which the Church seeks to remind everyone of the need spiritually to dress appropriately, to adorn ourselves with Christ. In practical terms, it means everyone is welcome and everyone is called to conversion, called to look at their clothing and see if our soul still sparkles with the brilliance of our white baptismal garment, if we’re still adorned with Christ.
    • Santa Susanna in Boston with the Gay Pride Mass. Sure everyone is welcome. But the Church does more than welcome. It needs to help everyone get properly dressed, to convert, to conform ourselves to Christ. Call to conversion those who are engaging in a gay lifestyle or in other sinful circumstances in which they sully their soul.
    • We see this sense in the preparation for Holy Communion. We should never approach to receive Jesus in Holy Communion “improperly dressed,” without being in the state of our baptismal grace. St. Paul says we eat and drink condemnation on ourselves when we do that. That sacrilege is about the worse sin we could ever commit because we do it to the Lord. Just like the king provides clothes for the guests, so Jesus provides the means for our soul to be cleansed — the Sacrament of Confession — but if we don’t go to confession and instead come to Communion unworthily, we’re just like the person in the parable who nonchalantly tries to show up for the banquet in his own dirty clothes rather than in the vesture given.
    • That’s the second lesson we learn.
  • Calling others to the feast
    • The third and last lesson is about the new evangelization. Just like the prophets, just like the apostles, so we, too, have a role as God’s servants in calling everyone to the feast and helping them to get dressed for it. That’s our task in the world, the continuation of Jesus’ mission. We want our family members to get to heaven. We want our fellow parishioners to get to heaven. We want our neighbors, our classmates, our coworkers, even strangers and those who persecute us to come to heaven. But we need to work, to let them know of the invitation, to help them to say yes to it, and to get ready.
    • In order for us to do this effectively, we first need to show them by our own lives that God comes first and really knows how to throw a feast. They need to see that a true balance in life, with God first and everything else in its place, actually makes us joyful, that coming to Mass and being filled with God changes us for the better, and that they’ll never find fulfillment putting other things, activities, or people in God’s place. Then we need to show by our own “clothing” that it’s so much more beautiful than anything that the world says is in fashion, the types of sins that the world celebrates rather than confesses. It’s then that if they respond they can join us forever in the feast that will know no end.
  • The King tells us today, “Come to the feast!” He says it both about the Mass and about heaven. If we put God first, respond to his invitation in life by coming to the new and eternal Passover he eagerly desires to eat with us, and arrive well-prepared and well-dressed, we can be confident that we will be ready to greet him whenever he comes to call us to the eternal wedding banquet. The more we arrive at Mass with readiness, joy and an immaculate wedding garment full of virtues and love God, the greater our preparation for eternity. This will be the best means for us to be numbered among the “chosen few” who will say, in the words of King David from today’s responsorial psalm, ““I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1IS 25:6-10A

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R/ (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Reading 2PHIL 4:12-14, 19-20

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel MT 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”