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Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 9, 2011 (28A)
By Fr. Alex McAllister SDS
Today the Church presents for our consideration the wonderful parable of the royal wedding banquet. We are also celebrating today the harvest festival with our schoolchildren. These two things fit quite well together because a great wedding banquet given by a king is certainly comparable to the bounty of nature at harvest time.
We all know what a parable is. It is a story which catches the attention, but it is also one which works on at least two levels and so has a hidden message. Usually the characters in the parable can be compared with us today or to the people to whom the parable is addressed.
The message of this parable of the royal wedding banquet is clear. God invites the people of Israel to his wedding banquet in heaven but despite the fact that they have enjoyed his favour over so many generations they do not come. He repeatedly invites them but they completely fail to take up his invitation.
The prophets who have brought the invitation on many occasions have been ignored so God punishes the people and invites others to his banquet instead. The Chosen People have ignored his invitation so God invites all the other people of the world instead.
This story told by Jesus is certainly good news for us. We are Gentiles and we have taken up God’s invitation and we are here at the great banquet he has prepared for us. Here in this mass—in this Eucharist—we celebrate the great love that God has shown us. We are gathered round his table and we feast on the most precious gifts he could give us.
We recognise that this parable is good news for us and so we rejoice, but there is also a warning contained in the story and we should be sure we understand it. You will remember the man who is found not to be wearing a wedding garment and who is slung out by the bouncers. What is all that about?
Well, the wedding garment is also a symbol. It represents our new life in Christ. When we accepted God’s invitation we left the old life of sin and began to live a new life of love and goodness. It is as if we left off our old clothes and put on new ones. We always feel much better wearing new clothes. We know we look good and often that helps us to act better.
So what about this man who is found wearing his old clothes at the royal wedding? The king is angry and has him thrown out. He represents us when we sin.
In those days the tradition was that when a poor man was invited to a royal feast and he could not afford a festive garment then the king would provide him one. So there was no excuse for this man to be without a wedding garment; that is surely why in the parable it says: the man was silent. He could give no reason because there was none.
When we answer God’s call and come to the waters of Baptism God forgives all our sins and opens up a new way of life for us. We begin to live a new life in Christ.
In the Baptismal ceremony this is celebrated by washing us with water and clothing us with a white garment. Traditionally no baby is baptised wearing pink or blue, but only in a white garment.
However, these new clothes of goodness and truth and love and all the other Christian virtues are put aside when we sin. It is as if we have taken off the new clothes put back on the old clothes of badness and deceit and hate and all the unchristian vices.
The man in the parable represents us when we sin. It is as if we have taken off our baptismal robe and left it aside and are now wearing the old clothes of our former life.
Of course, all of us sin. All of us from time to time lapse back in to old ways. But as soon as we realise this we must come to our senses and reclothe ourselves in Christ. We must, for our own sake, return to God immediately to seek forgiveness which he will freely grant us.
This is one of the great joys of being a Christian that we know we can always return to our forgiving and loving Lord.
So we are happy to be invited to this Table of the Lord and to share his banquet not just because it consists of the fruits of the earth in bread and wine but because these represent the unselfish love of God’s Son Jesus.
At this time of the year we are thinking of the harvest because, as this Gospel reading for today reminds us, we celebrate a harvest not only of fruit and vegetables and animals but a harvest of souls won for God.
We ourselves are the real harvest. We ourselves have been gathered up and welcomed by God into his Kingdom to enjoy his lavish banquet in heaven. And this mass is, if you like, a real foretaste of that heavenly banquet.
Our food is very simple —just bread and wine— but because we are gathered together as his Church and because we do what Jesus did at the Last Supper he makes these simple gifts into his body and blood and invites us to feed on him in this Eucharist.
But we have to listen to the warning in the parable and keep ourselves pure and holy just as God wants. We must resist sin and evil and keep faith with God.
The last words of that parable are: Many are called, but few are chosen. Yes, many people are called to share God’s life but at the end of time when we have to give an account of our lives he will choose only those found to be still wearing their wedding garment—only those still wearing the clothes of new life in Christ.
Anyone who has cast off the Christian way of life will have shown that they do not want to live with God in love. This warning is for us all. But we rejoice because we have taken notice of this warning, we have listened to the words of Jesus and we believe in his message and we want to share his life.
We want to keep on these new clothes of love and peace and truth and goodness.
In the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the First Reading: We exult and we rejoice that he has saved us; for the hand of the Lord rests on this mountain and on us his people!