This Sunday’s readings talk about festive meals with the invitation extended to everyone. But what does food have to with salvation?
Bible readings Isaiah 25: 6-10 Psalm 23 Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20 Matthew 22: 1-14
On the Belgian RTL –TV there’s a programme called L’invité (the guest) in which Mr Pascal Vrebos, the presenter, poses pertinent questions to the invited person, often a political figure. The last one I watched the style was simply marvellous. While Mr Vrebos was talking with the guest suddenly appeared, in the background, two kids of about 7 and 5 years old. “My Vrebos”, the boy interrupted, “my young sister has question for your guest.” And then the girl posed the question: “When we shall be 12, will Belgium still exist?”
That’s the question of a growing child concerned about the future. In fact, the question served to reflect the concern of every Belgian anxious about the national cohesion. Indeed, it’s in the human nature to think about tomorrow. No surprising that conservation is one of human preoccupations. We are concerned about our survival tomorrow. But there are times when the future doesn’t seem that bright and our existence is threatened. In such moments we need some assurance.
Invitation to the banquet as assurance
A skim through the first reading can make us go away with a bright image of what’s happening in there, thinking only of sumptuous meals of tender meat and fine wines. But that’s only the promise. The thing is the people of Israel have been in exile where their future doesn’t look promising. With sentiment hopelessness they feel of themselves as good as dead. It’s a nation covered with a shroud. And you know, the shroud is a cloth for the dead. In such circumstance you hardly imagine banquets but mourning. That’s why in this promise, God is determined to destroy the shroud, that is, destroy death and wipe the tears from the faces of his people. Thereafter people can genuinely feast. That’s an imagery manner for Isaiah to announce God’s assurance for the liberation of his people.
We are assured too
This feeling of hopelessness is not foreign to us. There are moments when individually or collectively we hit the rock and we don’t just see the way out. We need assurance; we want to hear the promise of a better tomorrow. And so this Sunday’s readings raise our hopes and invite us to look to the future with confidence. There’s something new that God wants to create for entire humanity. In order to realise dream where peoples sit around one table and share a festive meal, there’s need for the participation of all.
In baptism we have said yes we want to take part in this project, yet, that yes ought to be translated into concrete actions. Unfortunately, at times we are like those who had accepted the invitation but reclined when the moment came to act on their yes. It’s a refusal to join hands with God in destroying the shroud and wiping tears. We prefer to remain as we have been; a world of divisions, injustice and death.
The banquet here and now
If the banquet is the image of liberation then it’s urgent and not something to wait for tomorrow. We don’t wait to live as brothers and sisters in heaven after death but we choose to live such fraternity here and now. But can we honestly talk about such communion when people around us live in sounds of gunshots, deprived of the minimum necessities of life –in short, when they are covered in death? Indeed, when Christians are active in destroying all that dehumanises that’s the best wedding robe they can have. Perhaps, that’s why we can’t do without it. That reminds us about the man who was sent away.
Banquet for all, really?
The feast where both the good and the bad are present leaves us believing that it’s an invitation extended to all without selection. Won’t we wonder then that someone was asked to leave the room because he has no wedding garment? What if he couldn’t afford one? Besides, weren’t the guests rounded up from the streets? Whose fault then that this man has no wedding garment?
Well, here it’s about the wedding of the king’s son. And in those days people of certain social standing provided robes for the guests. It means he too must have been provided with one like anyone else. No wonder when the king asks him how entered without a wedding robe –he has no answer. Can we then concluded it’s probably out of his negligence? What does that say about our relationship with God?
Tips from past Sundays
In the past Sundays we have had a series of parables around the theme of vines: workers of the 11th hour (Homily: 25th Sunday A. We are Workers of 11th Hour), the parable of a man with two sons (Homily: 26th Sunday A. Yes, How Authentic Am I?), and that of tenants (Homily: 27th Sunday A: What are your Fruits?). In all of these parables transpire the patience, the mercy and the bounty of God for every person. But does God’s goodness mean laxity on our part?
Perhaps, this man without a wedding dress represents some of us who take God’s mercy as licence to do what we like without any care at all. God, no doubt, is merciful and yet he wants to see our commitment to live out our yes. Our baptism is not decorative dress but we really put on Christ that should transpire in our way of living.
Implication of the invitation
By our baptism we have declared our yes to take part in the festive. However, the question is: have I really joined in? It’s not about the future but today. Let’s then put on this weeding robe and let’s be seen around the table to witness the universal, human family to which we all belong. But how can our communion be genuine if we just watch those living in tears, covered in the cloth for the dead?
Well, then, responding to this invitation and wearing a wedding robe isn’t just about sitting at table well dressed as consumers; it’s about pushing up our sleeves and working in order to realise this dream of God for humanity: to destroy the shroud and wipe tears off the faces of those who mourn.
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