Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 9, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
A Marriage Feast For His Son
And again, Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son."
Invitations. They are fun to receive. The opposite is true too. Ask anyone who thought they should have been invited to the party, and wasn't. In today's first reading, our relationship with our Father is described as a festive feast - On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines. God wipes away our tears and reaches out to save us causing us to rejoice in our salvation. To this there remains an open invitation to whosoever will. It is Matthew who writes of this open invitation in the words of our Savior - Come unto me and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
As I mentioned last week, we are moving through Matthew's memory of the tension between Jesus and the rulers of the people; the chief priests and the elders. Like last weeks Gospel, the Gospel this morning raises the hazard of rejecting and responding to the invitation of the kingdom with animus. (Matthew 22:7) Within the historical setting of these Gospel readings is the warning of God's visiting upon Jerusalem and the Temple his judgement. This happened in 70 AD. Josephus, a historian of the time, descriptively writes of the devastation that came. The Temple was desecrated and the City was leveled. I'll leave it at that. The era of the Old Covenant was closed as the Kingdom with no end was beginning to stretch from Jerusalem and all Judea to Samaria and unto the uttermost ends of the earth.
Jesus confronts the attitudes opposing his invitation. He is 'coming' to his own and his own did not receive him. Although some did not receive him, many did embrace and welcome the invitation to find rest for their soul. In all of this we should, we must, remember that truly he first loved us. I suppose it is this that most melts my soul. An invitation that has nothing in it for him who gives it; it is all about seeking and finding the lost - a true shepherd who lays down is life for us sheep. In green pastures he gives us rest and beside still waters he leads us. All of creation at rest and Christ leading us into that rest so that he might refresh our souls. And in the evening time we are escorted into the wedding feast of the son, and before us is a Table of plenty.
However, one guest in the parable Jesus gives is not properly disposed to be at the marriage feast. Reviewing the guests the king observes a man who is not properly dressed for the occasion. "Friend," the king begins, How did you get in here without a wedding garment?" Indeed how did he think that it didn't matter how he responded to the invitation? When the ill dressed man was questioned, he became speechless. He does not even attempt to throw himself at the mercy of the host. Jesus does not want us to be speechless and overcome with guilt. He wants us to embrace his invitation to 'taste and see that he is good.'
So let's talk a bit about being worthy. How are we made worthy? I remember the little Assemblies of God Church my daddy pastored when I was a teenager. Any time daddy announced Communion, one family would leave just before the Communion was served. The dad explained he didn't want to risk partaking in an 'unworthy manner.' Now that is not a wrong sentiment. But how are we ever worthy - when are we properly clothed and ready to 'come to the feast?' Paul advises us to practice self examination. Am I properly disposed to loving my brothers and my sisters in Christ? Have I resisted God's love in my own heart when responding in unkind words or actions toward my family - at home and in the Parish?
What is the proper decorum when coming to the Table of the Lord? When we come because the one thing we desire is a heart of love, I think that is the proper attire. Desiring to be filled with love from above, to trust that in Christ God will supply whatever it is I need, that the glorious riches of Christ are for those who love him with a true heart and speak of him with a kind tongue - this is the wedding garment of the those who are invited to the feast. Perfect love is that love that is not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful and rejoices in what is right and good and pure. It is the very love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit - the greatest gift - the gift that never ends.
God's love is the gift that keeps on giving. We receive it every time we come to the feast - Christ our Passover sacrificed for us. Let us make every effort to receive this invitation to the wedding feast of the Son, who unites us to himself; giving us his body and his blood. Truly our life in him is a marriage made in heaven. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of our Lord, where the Table is always spread, now and forevermore. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com