Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 15 October 2017 (St. Mary Immaculate, Plainfield and St. Isaac Jogues, Hinsdale)
Is. 25:6-10a; Phil. 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt. 22:1-14
I’m excited this week.
Really excited, actually.
Let me back up.
I’m almost a priest, you’re almost gonna call me “Father”
and you’re almost gonna come to me for confession
and talk to me in the narthex and in my office
about your lives and woes and problems.
That is a privilege for me, and something I love.
But I think it’s only fair you let me do that to you sometimes.
Life lately has kind of stunk, to be perfectly honest.
Schoolwork is getting boring,
it’s hard living with the same 200 people,
I’ve been feeling pretty exhausted spiritually and physically and emotionally,
and hearing parables for the last 85 weeks about
how the Kingdom of Heaven is like working all day in a vineyard
is getting a little discouraging.
So, like I said, I’m pretty excited this week.
Finally we hear a parable from Jesus
that doesn’t involve manual labor, workers and wages;
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.”
In other words, the kingdom of heaven may be likened
to the best, most opulent, most over-the-top, no-expense-spared wedding reception.
Chocolate fountains, photo-booth, after-10pm-burger bar,
mid-dinner bag pipers, open bar even during dinner,
and a midnight fireworks display.
This party, friends, is going to rock.
You’d think the people invited to the banquet in the gospel today
would be more excited about being invited to such a feast.
“Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.”
Can you imagine if those e-vite emails
had an option to RSVP “NO”
by sending a henchman to kill the one who invited you?
“No, I don’t want to go to your stupid Pampered Chef party. Take that Debra!”
I want to look at three key points we can take away from this gospel,
and then address something based on them.
First, notice that the king only sends out the invitations
after he has prepared the wedding banquet for his Son.
In the banquet, it is his Son who will be honored,
some might say “glorified”,
and that this is the reason the banquet is being held.
The guests are invited to spend time with the Father,
at the banquet he planned on his own initiative,
precisely by coming to honor the Son.
By honoring the Son, we are in the house of the Father,
giving thanks to the Father for the great gift of the son,
and whom we have only come to know because of this free gift of the Father.
The Father invites all of us, not because he has to,
but because he WANTS you,
and he wants to spend time with you.
This is an image of heaven, sure,
but we don’t have to wait for heaven for such a party,
since we have a chance, every day if we want,
to attend a banquet
for the purpose of honoring the Son and giving glory to the Father.
Hint: you’re sitting at it. Ta da! Welcome everyone!
We find here a new way to understand Jesus’ words elsewhere in the gospels,
“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
But you’re only here, and you’ll be there, because of the invitation you’ve received.
That’s the second point: lots of people are invited to the banquet,
to life forever with Christ in God,
and the choice of whether we’ll go is ours:
we either say “no” and murder the messenger,
or we say “yes” and get ourselves ready, and go.
But it remains a choice.
Remember: we’re not at the party until we’re at the party.
Lots of us have started out somewhere and turned around halfway many times
because we forgot something, or we just didn’t want to go, or we got lost…
We’re not there until we’re there.
Therefore, until we’re there, the choice remains ours to turn around and go somewhere else,
and there are plenty of tempting reasons to do so.
We must be vigilant in our preparation!
Yes, the invitation is a free gift,
and it is our free choice whether or not to attend,
but that doesn’t mean that no preparation on our part is required.
Sometimes in this big book (called a lectionary)
there are two versions of the gospel: a long version and a short version.\
The short version of the gospel today shamefully cuts out
a part of the parable that’s disconcerting to hear:
“But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.””
As you might be able to tell, I’m not exactly a fashionista.
Last weekend, and shame on me,
I wore a blue tie with a blue and white checkered shirt
to a “white tie optional” wedding reception in the city;
evidently I’m the only one who cared about the word “optional”
and I looked more like a member of the wait staff than one of the distinguished guests.
The man who came into the wedding banquet without wearing a wedding garment,
was unprepared for what he was trying to do.
He accepted the invitation, but didn’t do the work to get himself ready in the proper way
to attend such a feast.
“Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Why are few chosen?
What makes one unfit for the banquet, for entrance into the kingdom?
I’m don’t think it’s “not being ready” as much as it’s believing the false notion
that “I am ready; and I’ve gotten ready all on my own.”
That’s the great sin of Adam and Eve in the garden, isn’t it?
Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, pride of life.
Lust of the eyes, desiring the fruit of the tree;
Lust of the flesh, by eating the apple;
Pride of life, desiring to be like God.
In other words, we think we’re ready as we are
and thus have no need for grace, for the sacraments,
for prayer, for meaningful relationships with God and with others.
For any one of more than a million reasons,
we try our hardest to convince ourselves and those around us
that we are good to go, we don’t have any problems;
“Take me now, Lord Jesus, I am ready as I am!”
I say that sometimes.
When the dust settles, and my Lexapro finally kicks in,
Or I’m in that precious moment between climbing into bed and turning out the light,
when I’m most face to face with myself
I find the inner narrative to be much less positive.
When I try to convince myself I’m ready,
I usually mean is something like this:
Oh, Jesus…I’m not ready.
I’m not good enough, holy enough, successful enough.
I don’t pray enough, I’m not virtuous enough, I don’t come to Mass enough.
Will my grades be good enough? Will people think I’m cool?
But if I’m not ready, if I don’t get myself ready, then will ever I be welcome?
This is the great Christian difference;
the great antithesis to the what the world wants us to think:
How do we get ready to attend the heavenly banquet? Not on our own!
Not only is the invitation being handed out freely to us,
so is everything we need to be ready to enter the banquet.
Listen again to the first reading:
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.”
The Lord of hosts will provide!
He will destory, he will provide!
He stepped out of nothingness to create the world,
he stepped out of silence to send his Son, to save the world,
he stepped out of eternal quiet to call you, YOU, me, us together
and invite you into his house for the express purpose of living forever with him;
How can we think that he do all of that
and then leave us alone to reach him on all on our own?
We are invited; the choice to respond is up to us;
the decision to hand everything over to him, to give him our whole heart and life,
is up to us as well and is, indeed, the most important choice we will ever make.
Sometimes, I feel unworthy of handing my heart over to God.
I don’t want him to see it because it’s dirty,
or not totally committed to him,
or isn’t completely in love with him alone.
In the Old Testament book of First Chronicles,
during his prayer of praise to the God of Israel,
King David prays:
“In the simplicity of my heart, Lord God,
I have gladly offered you everything.”
There are days when I can barely restrain that prayer from pouring out of my mouth.
But most days, I have a hard time offering him anything.
I don’t have “simplicity” in my heart.
I have a broken heart, a hurting heart, a busy heart, a nervous heart, a bleeding heart,
a romantic heart, a scared heart, a longing heart,
and a heart coated in fat from too many McNuggets.
In short, I have anything but a simple heart.
But what I do have is an utterly human heart;
My favorite prayer lately has been,
“In the complication of my heart, Lord God, I have wearily offered you everything.”
Friends, God delights in our desire to enter the banquet hall.
He is honored by our desire to be conformed to him, to be united with him.
If your heart is simple, then offer him everything in the simplicity of your heart.
If your heart is complicated, then offer everything to him in the complication of your heart.
If you are confident, then gladly offer him everything.
If you are exhausted, then wearily offer him everything.
The point is clear:
whatever you’re doing and wherever you are:
offer him everything.
In Jesus, God himself became a human.
It follows, then, that it is impossible for him to disdain what is human,
especially what is lowly and complicated in you.
The party is his idea; the invitation is his to give; the preparation is his to take care of.
All he needs from us is our “yes.”
Whatever you find is keeping yourself from making that “yes”,
wearily give it up; accept defeat today.
But take confidence in the knowledge that what the world calls “defeat”
Christians call “victory.”
Look forward to the day when you, as YOU,
enter the wedding banquet, fully prepared.
But you don’t have to look very far forward.
As we receive in the Eucharist today the One who has offered everything to the Father,
may we find in Him the strength to do exactly the same, confident that he receives us with joy, even in the midst of our complication.
“The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.”