Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus began to speak to them in parables once again, The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. Tell those who have been invited he said that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding. But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He dispatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding. So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment? And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.’
Members remain standing while the Gospel is read. After the Gospel is read, members kiss the Gospel and are seated. After an appropriate period of reflection, members are invited to share their own lights from the Holy Spirit in relation to this Gospel passage. The secretary synthesizes reflections into a brief summary for the team.
(30 minutes) See monthly schedule
The Better Part
Consider privately reflecting on the corresponding chapter from The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek, LC, ThD during the week.
Unit #67 – “A Thankless Banquet” – Matthew 22:1-14
“Alas for the soul which is without Christ to cultivate it so that it will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. When it is deserted it becomes full of thorns and thistles…” St Macarius
Christ as Lord
This king’s generosity depends not primarily upon what the people deserve, but upon his own abundant goodness. No one had earned an invitation to the feast; it was purely the king’s initiative – a beaming example of true nobility and magnanimity.
Christ’s is a feast of grace, an overflowing banquet of divine life. No one can deserve that; it springs from his bountiful generosity, from his longing to share the indescribable joy of his own existence. By the mere act of accepting such an invitation we honor and please him, because we allow him to share with us the delight of his feast. The evil of sin, of self-centeredness, stems ultimately from its ingratitude. Those who declined the invitation checked the king’s flow of generosity, they forbade it from reaching them. They frustrated the king’s munificence, even though it was meant for their own good. Our first duty in relation to God consists in humbly accepting his generous gifts, in letting him be for us the kind of King he really is.
Jesus tells this parable in the hearing of those Jewish leaders who had been consistently rejecting his signs and teachings for the last three years. He shows them the ugliness of their ingratitude, hoping it will jar them into a last minute acceptance of Christ as the Messiah. Even if they fail to understand or accept it right away, maybe after the coming crucifixion (which Jesus foresees) they will remember the parable’s vivid image of violence being done to the King’s servants. Perhaps then they will repent. Christ’s generosity is illustrated by the meaning of the parable; it is exemplified by his decision to tell it in the first place.
Christ as Teacher
God invites, but he does not coerce; he will never force us into his friendship, nor into heaven. This parable and the ones he spoke immediately before it address the mysterious topic of human freedom. In light of the parable, we clearly perceive how foolish those men were who preferred their own little businesses to the king’s feast. Not only did they end up being destroyed, but they also missed out on the royal celebration. They loved good things so much (their work and their profit) that they tragically declined the much better thing. If they had only been willing to admit their indebtedness to the king, whose rule made the peace and prosperity they were enjoying possible in the first place, they would have easily adjusted their own plans to honor him. In that case, they could have enjoyed both the good things and the better things. In the parable their mistake is clear, but in our own lives we often fall into the same trap: God’s plans seem to interrupt our own, and we forget that ours have no meaning except inside of his.
Even one of those who did accept the invitation somehow responded insufficiently. In ancient times, when a wedding was announced the actual day and hour were not immediately disclosed. Guests were alerted that they would be invited to a wedding, and that they should stay ready. Likewise, Christ’s first coming announced the wedding feast of the Kingdom, but we do not know the actual day and hour when we will be summoned to it. By continually living in a vital and personal friendship with Christ we stay ready. In ancient times the host provided his guests with wedding garments as part of the celebration; the man who is at the banquet without one must have refused the host’s gesture of welcome. Likewise, if we neglect our friendship with Christ – if we continue to put our whims and preferences ahead of God’s will, believing without putting our faith into action, we may end up excluded from the banquet. The reality of human freedom, the awful possibility that you or I may reject God’s gracious invitation, should be always in our minds, motivating us to take care of our own life of grace, and spurring us on to summon others to the feast.
Christ as Friend
Wedding feasts in first-century Palestine lasted for about 7 days. The guests, the families, sometimes the entire village treated the bride and groom like royalty for the entire length of the feast. It was the epitome of joy, celebration, and total contentment. It is also Jesus’ favorite image for heaven, for his Kingdom.
Jesus Christ calls us to authentic joy. He invites us to follow the way of his cross (obedience to his will) only so that we can join him in the resurrection. The joy he has in store for us far outweighs the sufferings we endure while following him now. He reaches out to us, through the voice of our conscience, through the teaching of the Church, through the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, in order to draw us closer to the feast, closer to the source of gladness, deeper into an intimate friendship with the eternal God himself.
Christ in my Life
Do I know anyone who is more dedicated to their work or their hobbies than to seeking life’s true meaning in Christ? Are you not sending me as a messenger to them, Lord? How can I speak to them of you? Why am I afraid of their rejecting me, more than I am afraid of their rejecting you? Have patience with me, Lord, and make me into the saint you created me to be”
Why don’t I look forward to heaven as much as I look forward to my favorite pastimes? You spoke so often of heaven, and you suffered so much to open heaven’s gates to those who believe in you, why is it so far from my mind? Stir up the virtue of hope in my heart, Lord. Stir up my gratitude to you. Never let me desire or seek anything in place of you or before you. Be my heart’s whole quest”
I never want to be like the ungrateful invitees, preferring my own comfortable routine and little dreams to your great and adventurous plans. Thy will be done, my Lord, thy Kingdom come in my heart”
Questions for Discussion
- What struck you most about this passage? What did you notice that you hadn’t noticed before?
- The banquet of the parable can also be understood as the Celebration of the Eucharist in Sunday Mass. What are some common excuses people give for skipping Mass? What light does the parable shed on those excuses?
- St Gregory the Great interpreted the two excuses offered by the invitees as being too engrossed in work (going off to the farm) and being too covetous of riches (going off to the business). Which of these attitudes is more prevalent in popular culture today?
- If you had to describe the Christian idea of heaven to a non-believer, how would you do it?