Gospel For Today: 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time


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Once again today Jesus uses a parable to teach us about the Kingdom of God.  In our gospel reading today (Mt 22:1-14), Jesus describes a king (God) who throws a wedding feast for His Son (Jesus).  He sends His servants (the prophets) to summon the invited guests (the people of Israel), but they refuse to come.  Some mistreat or even kill the servants, while others just ignore them.  So the king destroys their city (Jerusalem), and sends other servants (the Apostles) out to invite whomever they may find (Jews and Gentiles, people of all nations).  Those who come to the feast unprepared (without a wedding garment) are cast out into the darkness “where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (a reference to hell).

Jesus ends this parable by telling us, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”  In other words, while we are all invited, we have to accept the invitation.  We must also prepare ourselves for the feast by clothing ourselves properly — in the righteousness, justice, and mercy found in Christ.  Living a life in Christ seems difficult and it certainly has its challenges.  After all, didn’t Christ say those who desire to follow Him must take up their cross daily (Lk 9:23)?  But we must remember that Christ also said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:30).  There are struggles in living a life of Christian virtue, but the Lord is there with us to help us in those struggles.  This is why St. Paul can say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
In a way, the most difficult part about living a life in Christ is actually deciding to do it.  The crucial moment is deciding to trust in God and accept the invitation to come to His feast.  You have to decide that this is something you want to do.  How many fail to do just that? I think it is telling that in Jesus’ parable there are two groups of people who refuse the invitation.  There are those who respond violently and attack the prophets (the king’s messengers).  We certainly have those today.  We all can think of people who react angrily to the Christian message.  But that’s not most people.
What should worry us more are those who refuse the invitation simply because they were too busy.  “Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business” (Mt 22:5).  Note that the text does not say they “refused” the invitation, only that they “ignored” it.  But the end result is the same.  They are excluded from the banquet.
Why would someone ignore such a privileged invitation from a king?  When a friend sends you a wedding invitation, you make it a priority.  You arrange your busy schedule so that you can attend, maybe even cancelling something else you planned on doing, because you recognize this is important.  You want to celebrate with your friend.  So why ignore God’s invitation?  It’s a matter of setting priorities.  Yes, sure, a wedding feast sounds nice, but there are crops in the field that need harvesting.  I have a business to run, and my money is not going to count itself.  I have a test to study for.  I have a project to complete.  I have soccer practice.  I have this other party to go to.  My favorite show is on that night.  I have better things to do.
Is this you and I?  Are we ignoring God’s invitation?  What else in our lives is so important that we push God aside?  These don’t necessarily have to be bad things (though sinful activity does separate us from God and if we are engaged in it, we ought to repent, with God’s help).  Working on the farm, managing a business, doing homework, and even spending time relaxing with your friends are all good things that need doing.  So God is not saying we should not do those things.  But we need to have our priorities straight.  We can become so focused on doing good things that we forget about the best thing.  We forget that God is not only the best thing, but in the end, the only thing.  We forget that our worldly cares are all temporary.  They are all passing away.  They seem so pressing to us now, and heaven, by contrast, seems like a retirement home.  We think of heaven as a place of eternal rest.  Eternal rest sounds nice, but it can wait.  We are not ready for that yet, and so we put God on the back burner.  Our faith is something we tell ourselves we’ll “get to later,” when we “have more time.”
But heaven is not a retirement home.  It’s certainly not boring.  If anything, it’s a party!  Jesus describes heaven as a feast — and the most celebratory kind of feast, a wedding feast.  “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast!” (Mt 22:4).  Our reading today from Isaiah describes heaven as “a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines” (Is 25:6).  The RSV translation calls this “a feast of fat things… of fat things full of marrow.”
In other words, heaven is not just a party — it’s a feast of abundance, full of the best of everything you can imagine.  Isn’t that worth paying attention to?  Isn’t that worth making God a priority in life?  We prioritize the things that are important to us.  But are we prioritizing the good and neglecting the best?  Your faith should be your top priority now.  It does not have to be something you “get to later.”   Because God’s invitation is now.  His wedding feast is now.  It’s not some future promise of pie in the sky.  The table is set.  The wine is being poured.  There is a seat reserved for you.  At every Mass we celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:9), the Eucharist, our heavenly meal of the Body and Blood of Christ (Jn 6:53-58).  And by participating in our liturgical wedding feast now, we prepare ourselves to participate in the feast eternally at the end of time, in unending union with God and all of the saints in heaven.  That’s a party I want to be at.  That is an invitation worth accepting.