Invitation. This is the theme that resonates through our readings for this 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time. And not just any invitation… an invitation to the Lord’s house. Who wouldn’t want to go? Who would turn down this invitation? Let’s explore our readings to see what we might be missing…
The Word for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
We open with a reading from Isaiah at a point where he sees great hope for Israel (for a brief time as King Hezekiah begins his reign). In this poem of praise for God, he describes what it is like to live on the mountain of the Lord… a paradise with rich food and choice wines… a place where God’s people rejoice under the umbrella of his protection. Our Psalm echoes this joy with its chorus “I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” Who would want to leave?
Our Gospel from Matthew has Jesus using this image of a Heavenly banquet as he confronts the chief priests and elders with another parable. In this parable of the wedding feast, the king has prepared a wedding feast for his son, but none of the people he has invited wants to come. Why would anyone refuse such an invitation? Yet that’s exactly what happens, so the king sends his servants out into the streets to invite all anyone and everyone they found, and fills the hall with guests. If the king’s chosen guests refuse his invitation, then his invitation will be extended to everyone else.
We all have been invited by God to his Heavenly banquet. Will you accept the invitation? But even if you accept… you still must come dressed for the occasion. The long form of our Gospel takes on issue when the king finds someone at the feast who’s not wearing his wedding cloths. He has the servants bind his hands and feet, and has him tossed out into the night. Imagine his dismay… having been invited but then tossed out. It’s a reminder that even though the Lord invites us to his banquet, there still remain certain protocols and obligations to follow. By accepting a wedding invitation it’s expected that you will dress nicely and bring a gift. Similarly God’s invitation to us also comes with certain protocols and obligations, but the focus here isn’t on those, it’s on the benefit of having a seat at the table for the feast.
Our second reading concludes our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and not surprisingly, his message provides us with the reassurances we need should we fear getting tossed out of the banquet. Paul explains how he has been through good times and bad times, but regardless of circumstance, we, like he, can find strength through Christ Jesus. The Lord will provide us with what we need.
This themes played out in these readings can also be seen in our celebration of the Mass. The invitation is to everyone, Catholic or not. We come dressed for the occasion both physically and spiritually. We make our offering and find strength in Christ himself through the Eucharist. A weekly (even daily) reminder that we’ve been invited to the Heavenly feast that awaits. All we need do is to accept the invitation.
If you're familiar with the quote "Many are called, but few are chosen," you're not alone. A quick internet search will show you that not only is it a popularly known phrase, but many people seem to not know where it comes from or what it means. The internet being what it is, however, has no shortage of "answers." The phrase actually comes from more traditional translations of the end of our Gospel reading for this week, but in the New American Bible we read it as "Many are invited, but few are chosen." This is one of those rare occasions where I feel the New American translation go it right. The word "call" in the biblical sense tends to carry a lot of weight. We tend to equate it to a "calling" from God, like someone being "called" to the priesthood... something we can't ignore. But God's not calling us out, he's inviting us in. It's an invitation, and with all invitations the ball is put into our court... do we accept or not? The Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew's Gospel is deeply layered with meaning, but you may need to read through it more than once to see the points Jesus is trying to make.