For the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 15, 2017

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life;” (John 5:24)

This Sunday’s Theme: The Banquet Is Ready.

When we read about God providing us with Banquets and Gifts, we should know that we are not only to be thankful, grateful, and happy to receive them but God wants us to partake of them, enjoy them, open them up, and share them with others so that His glory is known, shown, acclaimed and celebrated. We won’t draw many people to God by just proclaiming His laws and judgment, we must show how He has provided us with His wonderful banquets and gifts and how they have benefited us. His best Banquet is the Kingdom of Heaven where He provides His best Gift of “eternal life”.

In Reading 1 and the Gospel reading, Isaiah and Jesus use the image of a sumptuous banquet to describe the fullness of life that God offers us and the abundant mercy that God wishes to offer not only to Israel but to all people.  In Reading 2, Paul shares how he has come, through grace, to depend on God in good times and in bad.

  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 25:6-10a      The Lord will provide richly for His people.

  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 23:1-6      The Lord is our Shepherd.

  • Reading 2 Philippians 4:12-14,19-20      Paul tells the Philippians that God provides whatever he

  • Gospel Matthew 22:1-14     Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast.

Reading 1     Isaiah 25:6-10a                        (God as Savior)

Context –  The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.
Today’s Reading – Images of a banquet are used to sum up the blessings that God’s people will experience on the last day. Notice that this heavenly banquet is prepared not only for the people of Israel, but for all people who hear and answer God’s call. At this feast, the “veil” or all that separates us from God will be lifted and the spider’s “web” that imprisons us in ignorance and isolation will be brushed aside. Tears, guilt and shame will be replaced with joy.
The reading is intended to give hope to a people who may have felt abandoned by God because of some bad things that have recently happened to them. Isaiah also speaks of a time of restoration in these verses. The day will come when God will return and renew the broken covenant. This will take place symbolically on a mountain just as the original covenant was made with Moses on a mountain.

On this mountain (a figure of the Church, and of Heaven) the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast (banquet – see Theme) of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines (The banquet signifies the spiritual blessings that God brings to humankind through His kingdom.). 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 (A promise of everlasting life in Heaven.). 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.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 

Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 23:1-6                       (Dwelling with the Lord)

Today’s Psalm –  God’s shepherding care for His people is celebrated in both pastoral and banquet imagery by this 23rd Psalm. It is a Psalm that expresses confidence in God’s protection. You spread the table before me” as is mentioned below, is in line with the Theme of God’s Banquet.

R. – 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
(green, abundant and grassy) pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me (Pastures and restful waters are God’s gifts to us.); 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
(for protection) and Your staff (for guiding – Abbot Richard Antonucci’s Staff is a symbol of leading his faithful flock along the path of salvation, disciplining and protecting them as needed.) 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
(God provides for us in a world beset with distractions, evil, and tragedy); You anoint my head with oil (The shepherd applies oil to the head of the sheep to repel flies, insects, and snakes. – God protects us.); my cup overflows (An overflowing cup is a sign to a visitor that his hosts wants him to stay as opposed to no refill which signifies – time to go!! –  God wants us to stay with Him forever.).
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
(Trust in the Lord, His way will get you to Heaven and the trials of the trip will be lost in the joys at His Banquet – the Kingdom of Heaven.)
R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The commentary, in part in the above, was taken from the book entitled “Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms” by Max Lucado.

Reading 2.     Philippians 4:12-14,19-20                     (Sharing the Hardships)    

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless love  and himself as a model of patient endurance.
Today’s Reading – While in prison, some of the Philippians send Paul gifts to help him endure the hardships of prison life. While grateful for the gifts, Paul shares that through his missionary journeys he has learned to be content with both famine and feast. Eating well or going hungry cannot compare with the strength Paul experiences in surrendering his life to Christ. He learns what Mary, the sister of Martha, had also come to know: “that only one thing is necessary,” namely, belonging to and being possessed by Christ. With Christ, Paul can say: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me” . Paul concludes by exhorting his readers to place their trust in the “magnificent riches of God.”

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 (Christ gives to His apostle the power to endure all things for the sake of the spread of the gospel.). 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. (St. Paul does not ask God to make them rich or affluent. He asks only that God may ‘supply their every need’ – so they will not be in want but will have what they need.” – Saint John Chrysostom) To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           God is the provider of His people’s needs. May we ever be mindful of this truth and be grateful to Him! – The Lord is my Shepherd! 

Gospel     Matthew 22:1-14                            (The Wedding Banquet)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading – Jesus is in Jerusalem for His passion. He has made His triumphal entry and has upset the religious leaders. He is speaking to them in parables about His mission and by whose authority He has been able to do what He has done and is to do. The parable we hear today summarizes the long history of God’s dealings with humankind – a series of invitations to a life guided by the Holy Spirit and portrays humankind’s  negative response to these invitations to share in the messianic blessings.
Like Reading 1, above, the Kingdom of God is imaged as a banquet to which all are invited to attend. The main focus of the parable is the response or lack of response of the invited guests. In this parable, Jesus continues to call the Pharisees and the religious leaders to conversion. Two invitations have been extended but the invitees refuse to come. Some even abuse and kill the servants delivering the invitations (a reference to the fate of some of the Old Testament prophets and the early Christian missionaries).
By the time Matthew writes his Gospel (85AD), Jesus has died, Jerusalem has been sacked and burned by the Romans (70AD), and the Gentiles have been invited into the Kingdom. It would be wrong to assume that the King in the story stands for a God—which would leave us with a pretty nasty image of a punishing God, rather than of a God who saves. As stated above, the main point of the parable is not about what God is like, but about the negative response of the religious leaders and all invited to Jesus’ call to enter the Kingdom that He is inaugurating.

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. (The messianic kingdom (Kingdom of Heaven) was referred to in the Old Testament in terms of a wedding feast (a Banquet) to which the Chosen People were invited (recall Reading 1 for today). The wedding feast was the high point of the wedding festivities and to be invited to it was a distinct honor. Failure to accept the invitation constituted a grave breach of courtesy – to the point it could even be considered a hostile act.)  He dispatched his servants (the prophets) 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. (In effect, they denied the urgency, they become careless with the things of God. They are preoccupied with material things. Sound familiar?)  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. (This can only be seen as a prophecy of the destruction to come to Jerusalem in A.D. 70.) Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited (the Jews) were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find (the Gentiles).’ 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. (A clean white garment (washed in the blood of the lamb) was the proper attire, this man has not repented. His white baptismal garment is dirty. Even though he may belong to the Church, if he doesn’t repent and have the proper dispositions, he will be condemned on the day when God judges all humankind. He may have made the altar call and “accepted Jesus as his Lord and savior,” but he has failed to live out that call. This is an example which shows that “once saved, always saved” doesn’t work.) 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.” (These words don’t conflict with God’s desire that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). In His love for humankind, Christ patiently searches even the byroads seeking the conversion of every single soul, going so far as to die on the cross so that the entrance to the Heavenly Banquet is opened. However, God in His infinite wisdom and love respects humankind’s freedom: humankind is free (our Free Will) to reject God’s grace.)

PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 546 – Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of His teaching. Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the Kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the Kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for humankind: will we be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use have we made of the talents we has received? Jesus and the presence of the Kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the Kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”. For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic (i.e. being beyond one’s powers to know, understand, or explain).