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Bishop's Homily for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

October 15, 2017

Twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
[St. Augustine Church, Oakland, California]

If you knew ahead of time that a wedding would be either boring or overwrought with drunkenness and drama, would you respond positively to the invitation to attend?  If you had a million things to do just to keep your own life together and you knew the wedding would cost you valuable time and money, would you still go?  I think we could safely answer, “It depends on how much I care for the bride and groom.”  If your relationship is close, you probably would attend, even if it was not the happiest occasion of your life.  But if your relationship is tenuous, you might just send a card and a check or not respond at all.

In this challenging parable, Jesus makes clear that not everyone was anxious to attend the great wedding feast of the king’s son.  Some ignored the invitation and just went about their own business.  Others were much more hostile and beat up the messengers who went to deliver the invitation.  Some were invited who never expected to be included on the guest list.  And one showed up but with such a wrong attitude that he was definitely out of place and might as well have stayed home.

This parable, of course, is not about etiquette and properly responding to an invitation.  It is not a lesson in wedding planning.  It is a challenge to all of us to come to the wedding of heaven and earth, to the wedding of God and humanity, and to the greatest celebration of God’s love affair with us that takes place right here.  Here God speaks to us with his own Word, lavishing our souls with the rich food and choice wine of his life-giving teachings.  Here we are called to feast on the Body and Blood of the Son of God himself, so that we can be filled with the fullness of love that comes ultimately from the One who is love itself.  This is the wedding banquet of the Lamb, and happy are those called to this supper of the Lamb, because we are called not as guests but to be the Bride with whom the Bridegroom wishes to make eternal love.

How easy it is for us to miss this wonderful gift of love that is offered to us every Sunday, indeed every day!  We are all busy and have lots of things we could do rather than come here Sunday after Sunday to allow Jesus, the great King’s Son, to feast with us by sharing his love.  Golf, sleep, shopping, and many other things become the excuses we give for not accepting the invitation to the banquet.  Or perhaps we even beat up the ones who invite us, because we know that coming to this banquet means admitting that we are not gods ourselves, that we are not the ultimate arbiters of life and death or of truth itself.  It means submitting ourselves to the law of the One who made us, when we want to submit ourselves to no one except our own law.  We do not realize that the greatest freedom is chaining ourselves to the God who is love and who shows us his love in Jesus.

Or perhaps we refuse the invitation because we feel we are not worthy because of our past or present sins, and we would be ashamed.  Yet the invitation is issued to the bad and the good alike, so that when we are bad we can be transformed in the presence of Goodness himself; and when we are good, we can give thanks to the One who makes us so.  Or maybe we come, but without the proper attire, without the proper attitude.  We come for superficial reasons:  to see our friends, to hear some good music, to be inspired, or even just to be seen.  If someone fails to deliver in these things, we moan and groan and in effect evict ourselves from the richness of the celebration, this encounter with the risen Jesus that is meant to transform us and clothe us in glory.

And even if we are responsive guests who come well clothed with an open attitude of worship, we have to ask whether we have been faithful in being the servants who go out to others to share the invitation to come to this wedding feast.  Yes, we may be politely ignored when we invite others to taste and see how good is the Lord.  Or worse, we might be beaten up with criticism and ridicule.  Yet if the invitation is never taken out, if we do not make deliberate efforts to go to the highways and byways in which we live, no one will come to know the rich food and choice wine we are offered on this holy mountain.  So our challenge is not only to come ourselves and to open our eyes and hearts to the wondrous gift that is given to us here, but to be the servants who go out to bring others in as well.

Jesus knew about weddings and even decided to go to one where the guests drank so freely of the wine that it ran out long before the wedding planners predicted.  Yet his attitude was not, “Let’s close down this party, because it has obviously gotten out of hand,” but he miraculously provided an even choicer wine in great abundance.  And so we are sent out to bring even more guests to this wedding banquet, so that together with them we may be filled not with junk food that will ultimately sicken us, but with the rich food and choice wine that is Jesus himself, our Bridegroom and lover.