Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14
We have three homily notes here. Scroll down the page.
Fr. Paul Oredipe: Everything is ready; Come to the Marriage Feast
Fr. Evaristus Okeke: You are Invited: Come, but participate Actively
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: God’s plan for salvation
Fr. Paul Oredipe:
EVERYTHING IS READY; COME TO THE MARRIAGE FEAST
In today’s first reading, we hear Isaiah describing an immense banquet prepared by God. His description comes in the middle of a section of prophecy which goes beyond the immediate events of his time to look at God’s final judgement. Isaiah describes the last battle and the desolation of the world, and also the reward which God has prepared for the righteous: a magnificent feast of rich food and fine wine. Isaiah repeatedly mentions the mountain on which this banquet will take place.
The banquet described by Isaiah is so wonderful that this image was taken up by other prophets to describe the immense goodness of God towards his chosen people, and became part of their normal way of describing the end of the world, an image taken up by Our Lord Himself in the gospel passage for today. Belief in the exclusive holiness of the Jewish people was prevalent in Our Lord’s day, especially among the Pharisees, and this parable was addressed, at least in part, to them.
It reinforces the rather critical message in last week’s parable of the vineyard, which concluded with the comment: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them, and so they tried to arrest him.” This criticism of the religious establishment is also implicit in today’s gospel, for the opening part of the parable tells how the first group of people invited rejected their invitation.
One of the main points is this. The fact that the first people who were invited did not come does not mean that the marriage feast was cancelled. Far from it. Instead, the reward was offered to the whole world: “the wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the streets, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.” The invitation is now opened up to include all people, in every age.
And so in the parable, the king sends his servants out to invite everyone to the feast, but again a response must be made by those who have been invited. Everyone must respond personally and individually to the call they have received, otherwise they also will suffer God’s condemnation. That is what we are being told in the last section of the parable, the crushing detail of the guest who was expelled from the feast because he did not have a wedding garment.
In the wedding hall, one man did not wear a wedding garment. This man wore another garment, and in this way he dissociated himself from the other guests, who together formed a single body, the Body of Christ.
Also, this man was thrown outside, in order that all the guests would appear as one single body, united and interdependent, a single Body which forms the Spouse of Christ the Savior.
Organized groups often have uniforms. By wearing them they show they belong together and have a common objective. On certain occasions every member is expected to wear the uniform. If one refuses to do so, one is saying he no longer belongs to the group.
This parable is not about wearing clothes. It is about wearing Jesus Christ. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” St. Paul tells the Romans, and the Galatians, and the Colossians, and the Ephesians. The man who came without the proper clothes is the Christian in name only, who refuses to put on Jesus Christ throughout his life. This is the person who accepts the invitation of the Lord, but refuses to exercise his or her responsibility in the Christian community.
We are invited to share the intimacy of the Banquet of Heaven. We are invited into God’s presence. God does not ask a lot from us to be with him. But He does expect us to wear our Christianity. The way we respond to His love must be evident to the world. People should know that we are Christians by the way we live our lives.
In a homily on this parable, Saint Gregory the Great says: “The marriage is the wedding of Christ and His Church, and the garment is the virtue of charity: a person who goes into the feast without a wedding garment is someone who believes in the Church but does not have charity.”
The wedding garment signifies those dispositions which a person needs for entering the kingdom of heaven. Although we may belong to the Church, if we do not have these dispositions, we will be condemned on the day when God judges all mankind.
The answer given to the young man is the same as the answer given to us: we must have charity. We must love God, and love our neighbour, and we must follow Christ. One of the best ways Christ helps us to follow Him is through Holy Mass.
In a few minutes, just before Holy Communion, the celebrant will say some words which should remind us very strongly of today’s parable: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to His supper.” The Eucharistic banquet is a foretaste of the feast of eternal life. What God gives us in the Mass is a token of the fact that we are all invited, again and again, to the banquet prepared for us by the great king.
So let us make progress towards our final reward by saying and meaning the familiar words, asking God to help us respond positively to his invitation and to persevere to the end: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” The One on whom we feed in this Mass is the One who will feed us with His own endless life when, by His grace, we reach our destiny: the heavenly banquet of the King of kings, in the life of the world to come. A blessing I wish for you all.
Jesus is asking us to come in haste to God’s Kingdom of now. He is not asking us to reject our earthly world in favor of some ethereal kingdom. Rather, He invites us to embrace the world, to participate in our earthly affairs and our human relationships as He did – in the Holy Spirit of sacrificial love.
No one who puts his hand on the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom. That is our choice. Do we accept Jesus’ invitation to enter the Kingdom of Love now, or do we turn our heads in the direction of every passing allurement? Hasten to the banquet. Run for your life.
Today, once again, Jesus invites us to the feast of New Life: “Everything is ready. Come to the feast. Accept my invitation to the New Life I am offering you now, before your opportunity to become the beautiful, fulfilled person you are meant to be is lost.”
The wedding feast is ready, but are you worthy? Are you ready to accept the grace to become an effective instrument for change, so that the Rule of God may prevail — in your individual life, in your family life and in your community life? How do you respond now to the sound, reliable, trustworthy, perfect and unchanging Word of God?
The banquet feast is ready. Jesus is waiting. The door is open to you now, but two things can keep you from going through:
- If you think you are too good and,
- If you think you are too bad.
You can never be too good and you can never be too bad to draw close to the Lord Jesus and to recognize Him as Love in Person.
The great parable of the wedding banquet reminds us that we are invited by God into fullness of life and that we have to respond with all of our powers to that invitation. The single greatest tragedy in human life is the refusal to answer the call to God’s banquet. We must do it, before it is too late.
God has chosen us, and we choose Him when we say “yes” — and to say “yes” and keep saying “yes” as best as we can, even when we fall and fail, trying as best as we can to live as He calls us to, requires grace.
While we wait for the coming of the promised destiny, we can put on the wedding robe by turning daily to God, asking for His grace to choose His ways, not ours.
One way to do that is through a beautiful traditional devotion ascribed to St Patrick, that great saint of Ireland in the fifth century, St. Patrick’s breastplate:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke:
You are Invited: Come, but participate Actively
The readings of today are concerned about the kingdom of God. Both the first and the gospel readings talk about the kingdom of God using the image of a wedding banquet. Particularly, the gospel reading reflected on invitation and participation in the wedding banquet. Consequently, the gospel is focused on God’s invitation to us to belong to his kingdom and our participation after we have accepted the invitation.
The first thing the gospel points out to us is that our belongingness to the kingdom of God is not something that happens arbitrarily. We do not initiate the desire to belong; we only respond to the invitation to belong. This invitation is God’s love. Therefore, heaven is for those who want to love the God that has first loved them. If God had not first loved us, we will not know how to love.
There are two sets of people who could not participate in the banquet. The first set could not because they turned down the invitation at the nick of time. They were so engrossed with their personal businesses and they considered responding to the invitation a waste of time. The second could not because he was not properly dressed. Similarly, there are two obstructions for belonging to heaven: unwillingness to leave our old way of life and accept the new life of Christ, and attempting to live the new life of Christ without letting go our old nature.
For proper understanding, we shall define the kingdom of God in three senses so that we can properly understand the obstructions for effective participation. First, the kingdom of God is the community of believers; for where or three are gathered in the name of the Lord, He is there in the midst of them (cf.Matt.18:20). Whenever we gather in God’s name, we are participating in the affairs of heaven. This participation is open to all; no one comes and is sent away. Yet, people cook up excuses for not participating; some say they didn’t wake up in time, others say don’t have transport fare, some go to work, some say Church goers are the worse of human beings, some say they are tired, some just don’t feel like going to Church and so on. The summary of all excuses is that they turned down God’s invitation. Thus, excuses is the first obstruction.
The second obstruction is wrong participation. Some persons come to Church but with other motives other than to worship God in Spirit and in truth. Some come to meet business partners, show-off their clothes and cars, some even come to steal and so on. When these reasons are no more, they are no longer motivated to go to Church.
Another definition of the kingdom of God is the Eucharistic banquet. Each time we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we share in the life of heaven; for His body is real food and His blood is real drink. Yet statistics show that barely 40% of those who attend Mass on a Sunday, participate in this real heavenly experience. Reasons include irregular unions, obstinacy in sin, general disinterestedness and so on. Someone once defined the pain of hell as perceiving the aroma of heaven without being able to belong there. When we comfortably sit in out chairs and watch others go to receive Holy Communion without desiring it ourselves, then we are creating hell for ourselves.
The obstruction of wrong participation is when people approach the communion rail without the right disposition. St. Paul noted that when we eat and drink unworthily, we eat and drink judgment to ourselves. Communion is not a time for reception/entertainment or showoff. Jesus wants to come into us so that he can possess us. We handcuff him in our lives when he comes and see that we are already possessed by other things that we are not ready to do away with. Jesus does not want to reign in us as a tenant nor even as a landlord but as the only occupant. If we are not giving our ALL, then we are not giving to Jesus.
The third definition of the kingdom of God is the JOY we bring to the lives of others through words and works of charity. When you put a smile on the face of another, you concretely teach that person what it means to say that “Jesus loves you”. Yet people hid under different excuses for failing in this core aspect of the Christian life. Some opportune persons don’t help because they think they don’t have enough yet, or because they think the poor are poor because they are lazy; some are even too “up-there” to notice the “lazarus” at their “gates”. Little do they know that life is fulfilling on account of the number of persons we bring joy to their lives.
On the other hand of wrong participation, some persons give not for the love of God and of their neighbour but for other ulterior motives. Some give to win cheap popularities, some give so as to get something greater, some give as bait to trap others, some give because they are being blackmailed and so on. Under such conditions, the need of the receiver is not what is considered but the gain of the giver. Such giving is not charity and so does not attract God’s reward.
Beloved, today, God wants us to come to him unreservedly, leaving out those things and persons that cleave to us inordinately. God Bless You!
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:
God’s plan for salvation
God’s plan since the foundation of the world was for mankind to respond to the free gift of salvation found in Christ and to receive Him as their Saviour and Lord. Thus, in John 3:16 the mission was defined; the Bible says “for God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son … should not perish” But when Christ came only a few accepted him; in fact even his own people, the elders and Pharisees turned against him to the extent of even asking for His crucifixion.
This plan for salvation has been extended to us all. This is the central theme of the first reading and the gospel reading. In doing this, the gospel presents us with the parable of the wedding feast. This is a parable about the Kingdom of God; a parable that expresses God’s plan for the salvation of all men. This parable makes us to understand that we are all invited to God’s kingdom and that this invitation is a serious matter. Beloved in Christ, through the Church we have all been invited. But then, how have we responded? The gospel categorized our responses according to the behaviour expressed by those who were invited in the parable. Matt.22:1-3 some refused the invitation; Matt. 22: 4-8 some violently opposed the invitation and Matt.22:11-13 another was not clothed in the proper garment.
Who are those who refused his invitation? These are men who live in sin and are not ready to change. In the gospel they gave excuses for their absence; one to his farm and another to his business. In the Old Testament, we had men who equally tendered excuses; in Exd. 3:11 Moses underrated himself before Pharaoh; in Exd. 4:10 Moses begged to be excused because of his inability to speak well; in Judges 6:15 Gideon tried to excuse himself saying that his family is the least in Manasseh and he is the youngest in his father’s house. Therefore, how can he deliver Israel? This trait continued in the New Testament; in Luke 9: 59-62 when Jesus asked some men to follow him, one said ‘let me go and bury my father’ another said ‘let me go and say farewell to those at home’. Similarly, in Luke 14: 18-20 some men gave excuses; the first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ The Wedding banquet hymn goes thus:
I cannot come to the banquet,
don’t trouble me now.
I have married a wife; I have bought me a cow.
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum.
Pray, hold me excused, I cannot come.
In the same vein we equally give excuses for non participation in the divine banquet. Many of us we have reasons why we don’t receive communion; we have reasons why we are not going to receive at this mass; we have thousand and one excuses against this great invitation. Beloved, this is the moment we should turn to God in all sincerity and honour this invitation. If we don’t honour his invitation he shall dishonor us on the last day.
Again, who are those who murdered the messengers? These are men who heard the message of repentance and instead of them eliminating their ills went away incubating hatred. Instead of changing their attitudes decided to torment the messengers. Herod killed John the Baptist, 1Kings 18:4 Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water. Acts 7:59-60 Stephen was stoned to death; all the apostles except John were killed. Many of the saints were not spared the sword of violence. Beloved in Christ, whenever we maltreat God’s messengers we dishonour his invitation and reject God’s kingdom.
These murderers suffered the consequences of sin. The gospel says that “the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.” There is a penalty for sin, the bible says in Rom. 6:23 that the wages of sin is death. This death refers more to the death of the soul. What is that way that seems right to you; what is that thing that makes you dishonor God’s voice in your heart. Let us turn to God and honour his call.
Lastly we are told of a man who came in without wedding garment. We can view this man from two spheres: 1. The man represents Christians who take God for granted; Christians who abuse the sacramental privileges; Christians who think that dressing anyhow does not matter.2. The man draws our attention to the importance of wedding garment. Why is the wedding garment so important? In Revelation 19:8 the bible describes the wedding feast of the Lamb and it says that the garment is the righteous acts of the saints. Beloved, we have been invited to the Kingdom but we must be in the right garment. We must have the righteous acts of the saints otherwise we shall be thrown out. The Bible uses clothing as an analogy to show how we “put on” behavior that is pleasing to God. Thus, let us put on the behavior that is pleasing to God. We must live a life worthy of the Kingdom. No repentance; no entrance.
The Wedding Banquet
I cannot come to the banquet,
don’t trouble me now.
I have married a wife; I have bought me a cow.
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum.
Pray, hold me excused, I cannot come.
- A certain man held a feast on his fine estate in town.
He laid a festive table and wore a wedding gown.
He sent invitations to his neighbours far and wide
but when the meal was ready, each of them replied:
- The master rose up in anger, called his servant by name,
said: “Go into the town, fetch the blind and the lame,
fetch the peasant and the pauper, for this I have willed,
my banquet seem so crowded, and my table must be filled.
- When all the poor had assembled, there was still room to spare,
so the master demanded: “Go search every where,
to the highways and the byways and force them to come in.
My table must be filled before the banquet can begin.
- Now God has written a lesson for the rest of the mankind;
If we’re slow a responding, he may leave us behind.
He’s preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day
when the Lord and Master calls us, be certain not to say: