28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A. Oct. 15, 2023

 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A. Oct. 15, 2023

Isiah 25: 6-10a; Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22: 1-14

 

Theme: The “Wedding Garment” is Our Willingness to Repent and Meet with Jesus

Many of us like being invited to big celebrations like wedding parties. The first reading and the Gospel today remind us that God invites each one of us to the greatest feast. The Gospel represents this feast as a wedding banquet that God organizes for his Son Jesus whose bride is the Church. Prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, describes this banquet as a feast of rich food and choice wines that will take place on the mountain Zion, alluding to the end of the time. The Church teaches us that this heavenly banquet starts here on earth and takes place at every Eucharistic celebration (Mass).

To better understand the parable that we heard in today’s Gospel, let us first recall its historical context which starts back in chapter 21. Jesu’s long journey with his disciples to Jerusalem came to an end. First, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, and the crowds sang for him, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord; hosana in the highest.” The whole city of Jerusalem was shaken. (21: 1-11). Second, Jesus entered the Temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. The blind and the lame came to him, and he healed them. Children continued crying out in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” The Chief priests and Scribes were indignant (21: 12-17). V. 17 says that Jesus spent the night out of the city of Jerusalem, it was in Bethany. On his way back to the city in the morning, he cursed one fig tree because he did not find anything to eat on it. Immediately the fig tree withered. Because his disciples were amazed at seeing this miracle, Jesus taught them what a prayer with faith can do (vv. 18-22). When Jesus arrived in the temple area, he started teaching. The chief priests and elders questioned his authority of preaching, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Jesus asked them to tell him the origin of the baptism of John the Baptist instead, but they did not provide a correct answer. Since they failed to answer his question, Jesus did not tell them the origin of his divine authority for doing all these things (vv. 23-27).

While the chief priests and elders were still waiting for Jesus to tell them by what authority he drove out the vendors and buyers from the temple, he preached, and performed miracles, in response, Jesus told them three parables in a row. The first parable is the parable of the Two Sons that we heard on Sunday, October 1st (Matthew 21: 28-32). The second is the parable of the Tenants which was the Gospel of last Sunday (Matthew 21: 33-43). And the third is our Gospel’s passage today, the parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22: 1-14). Note that in all these three parables, Jesus addresses the chief priests and the elders of the Jews.

Let us now analyze our parable. Its analogy is that the king is God, the wedding feast is the heavenly kingdom that Jesus established, and today is manifested in the liturgy of the Mass. The king’s son is Jesus and the bride in this wedding is the Church. The servants are the prophets and today could be you and me. The invited guests represent the Jews who are the first people God invited to be his “chosen people”. In the New Covenant with Jesus, all of us are “God’s chosen people” so we are the invited guests of the Eucharistic Celebration, the Mass. The second group of guests who fill the hall stand for the non-Jewish people and all sinners, including you and me, who repent and believe in Jesus. The man who did not dress in a wedding garment represents all those who apparently come to Jesus but do not believe in him. Today, this man represents all those who come to Mass but with no intention to repent.  

This parable has two parts and a closing statement. The first part describes the mission of the servants and the reactions of invited guests (vv. 1-10). The second part portrays the judgment of the man who attends the banquet without a wedding garment (vv. 11-13). The concluding statement alludes to the final judgment at the end of time (v. 14).

In the first part of the parable, Jesus taught the chief priests and elders of the people of Israel that God sent his prophets to summon them who are the first invited guests to partake in the “wedding feast” which is the heavenly kingdom that Jesus started. However, they ignored God’s invitation and refused to come. They privileged their business and even killed God’s servants. (vv. 1-6). Why did these first invited guests ignore God’s invitation? There are two reasons. First, because they knew very well that responding to God’s invitation meant that they needed to spend their time with him and that God had to become their first priority. For these invited guests, their priority was their business, and they did not want to change it. Second, they ignored God’s invitation because they knew that the “wedding garment” was required for them to access the hall of the feast. Note that the “wedding garment” stands for the desire from our hearts to repent. So, they did not want to repent, neither did they want to consider God as their priority. 

Today, there are still people who refuse God’s invitation to come to the heavenly wedding banquet that takes place in the Eucharistic celebration, the Mass. The first reason why they reject God’s invitation is that they avoid “dressing in wedding garments”, which means, they do not want to repent and let Jesus lead their lives. The second reason is that they do not want to consider God as their priority. Their business, leisure, social gatherings, and travels are their priorities but not their spiritual growth and their relationship with God. So, we are called to respond to God’s invitation every Sunday to participate in the Eucharistic celebration which prefigures the heavenly kingdom. God knows that we all are sinners, yet he invites us. What he expects from us is our willingness to work on our weaknesses and let God transform our lives, and also to consider him as our priority. All that we do, business, leisure, traveling, and social gatherings are good, but we need to prioritize our spiritual lives.  The willingness to repent and to consider God as our priority is the ticket to partake in the heavenly kingdom.

Another reason why some people do not come to Mass is because they have nobody who reminds them and motivates them. The mission of the servants in our parable consists of reminding the invited guests that the wedding banquet is about to start and that the king is waiting for them. Likewise, our mission as Baptized Christians is to remind our family members, relatives, and friends about the Weekend Masses (also the weekday Masses) to which God our Father invites us and waits for us. Many families do not even converse about going to Mass together as a family. In our neighborhood’s meetings, do our agendas include the point regarding our spiritual growth and encouraging one another to go to Church? For families, relatives, and friends who live far away from each other, do we pick up our phones and motivate our members to go to Church, especially on weekends? This first part of our parable teaches us that we are God’s servants, and our mission is to remind people every weekend that God waits for all of us to come and partake in the Heavenly Wedding Banquet which is the Eucharistic celebration, the Mass.

Because the Jews who were the first invited guests were not worthy to come to the feast, God extended his invitation to the non-Jewish people. “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.” (vv. 8-10). Notice how paradigms change here.  The first mission of the servants was to remind the invited guests but here their mission consists of inviting everyone they meet on the roads. The first group of people already knew about God’s invitation; what was needed was just to remind them, while the second group did not know anything; they were surprised on their way to their businesses. This teaches us that our mission as Baptized is to remind Christians to come to Mass and to invite non-Christians to join our Church. In other words, we are called to encourage our existing Church members to attend Weekend Masses and also seek those who do not belong to our Church community to join us. Note that our mission is not to judge but to remind and invite everyone, good and bad alike. Jesus came to establish a New Israel, a heavenly kingdom on earth that includes all people from all nations. 

The second part of our parable deals with the judgment of the man who attends the banquet without a wedding garment (vv. 11-13). This part portrays a scenario in which all people, good and bad alike, are invited to the wedding feast. The hall is full of guests. Among them, one does not have a wedding garment. We may wonder why the king is so harsh with him since it is the king himself who asked his servants to invite whomever they meet on the main road (v. 9). This man probably may have been going to his business and upon receiving this invitation, he responded instantly. So, he did not have time to return home and dress appropriately. Why is this man condemned? What does the Church try to teach us here?

Note that the wedding banquet in this parable represents our celebration of the Eucharist which takes place at each Mass. Then, the wedding garment represents our desire from our hearts to meet with the Lord and to repent. So, this man had enough time to repent so he could meet the Lord with a pure heart. Conversion needs just a few seconds of our decision. When God calls us, we need to decide whether we want to start a new life with Him or want to continue our old lives without Him. This man without a wedding garment represents all those who respond to the invitation of God but refuse to repent and refuse to spend time with Jesus in a one-on-one relationship. In other words, this man represents all those who come to Mass just to entertain themselves (for example, to enjoy the Gospel choir) or merely per the obedience of the parents/grandparents who ask them to do so but, in their hearts, they have no intention of repentance and no intention of discipleship (following Jesus). This part of the parable teaches us that we all are invited to partake in the Eucharistic celebration, the Mass, which prefigures the heavenly Wedding Banquet. We are expected to express our willingness to let the Word of God proclaimed at Mass transform us and the Body and Blood of Jesus that we receive in the Holy Communion strengthen our relationships with God. The heavenly kingdom is for all people (bad and good alike) but only those who accept to repent and let Jesus lead their lives are the ones who are allowed to access the kingdom of heaven.  

Jesus concludes this parable by stating that many are invited, but few are chosen. The criterion for choosing the people is the “wedding garment”, the willingness to repent. If you and I want to be among the “chosen”, let us open our hearts and allow God to change our lives. Amen.  

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

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