In this beautiful homily for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Father Hanly looks at The Parable of the Wedding Feast and its wonderful revelation that the whole world is invited to the banquet that we all hunger for.
Readings for Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
- First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
- Second Reading: Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
- Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14 or 22:1-10
Today’s a rather difficult passage from the Book of the Gospel according to Matthew.
Not too difficult. But some of those scholars who suggest to us who have to preach a talk on this Gospel that maybe some of it was added much later — especially the part about the man without the wedding garment, they throw him out and Jesus says some harsh things about what is going to happen to him — they feel that somehow that was an addition later on.
But I think it’s not so. I kind of like the whole Gospel.
But you must remember now, this is not Jesus saying, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you shall love your neighbour with your whole heart and with your whole soul.” This is parables, and I told you many, many times, a parable is a brief story and you read it and they don’t give you the answer.
Jesus is not trying to answer your problems. He’s trying to enter into your mind and see maybe the problem and how you would solve it yourself. It’s sort of a dialogue or a parable, and if you see it in this way — and you understand the rest of the coming of the Lord, the coming of Jesus — then it will be a little bit easier.
It begins with a reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
Now you remember Matthew has had Jesus tell us three parables about the vinedressers and they’re all kind of sad parables.
He has this beautiful vine — the owner has a beautiful vine — and it’s God’s gift. And he took good care of it and he put a nice wine press in, etc, etc. And the feeling is that the owner loves his vine.
But his vine produces sour grapes and whatever he tries to do he’s frustrated, because, finally, the ones who are working in the vineyard come and plot against the owner himself.
And the final one last week was then the poor owner, he sends his son, and his son comes to them. And he says, “At least they’ll respect my son,” you see. And, of course, they take him outside the gate and kill him and toss him away, because he is the heir and, with the heir dead, those who are working in the vineyard are entitled to receive the vineyard. An old kind of story.
Well, the first time we hear that story, we think immediately Jesus is telling a story and he’s talking about his own problem which will come about a week and a half later.
Because already he has come into the temple and he is already preaching words that are very hard for us to hear and sometimes he disguises them in parables and sometimes he speaks out.
But the main reason, the main idea of all this, he says, “I am coming into the temple to be destroyed.” And he goes into it: “They will mock me, they will scourge me, they will hang me on a cross, they will kill me, but on the third day I will rise again.”
Of course, when we hear that first parable, the parable of Jesus saying that the owner of the vineyard sends his son, we think immediately of God the Father sending God the Son. And the people in the vineyard, the people who are in charge of the Lord’s people, the Israelites, instead of welcoming him in, they destroy him.
And he is saying that, in less than a week and a half, this will happen to me, and do not be afraid, because I have told you before.
What we really have to understand now is that if this was the beginning and the end of the story of Jesus, we wouldn’t be sitting here.
And why is that?
Because we know another Jesus. We know the Jesus who is talking, yes, but we know that Jesus is the Son of God. And in knowing that he is the Son of God, it means that he has come among us, he has come among us to heal us and to save us.
And this is the Son the Father sends.
And he does wonderful things of healing. And he speaks a way that no one has ever spoken before or after. And it’s always full of hope and joy and the goodness of creation and the holiness of people and the caring that they need and all of these wonderful things. This is his message.
What happens to him is not his doing, but he gives in to it and allows it to happen so that his message will ring even stronger and clearer.
And that message, of course, is: “I have come to teach you how to love. And if you follow me and you listen to me and walk with me, you will experience the great joy that the Father had when He sent me.
“And He sent me that you might be healed, that you might be loved, that you might finally learn how to love, not God, but to love each other, that the creating instinct in God Himself will not be turned aside.”
He has created this world and magnificent it is. He has created this world that we may be the caretakers of this world and not experience the fears of what might happen, and who will receive it and who will not, and what will the wars be and what will the pain of it be, etc, etc.
He sees it as joining with Jesus in the celebration of his Father’s glory.
The word glory is very interesting. The word glory means the revelation of what has always been. And, in him, God’s love, care and concern has been shining forth through him all through his life.
And they tried to take it away by killing him in a terrible sort of way and all would reject him.
And in his dying is even a greater expression of the deep love of a Father who even sacrifices His Only Son that we might finally learn that there’s only one lesson in life and that is you must learn to love one another and then you will know the grandeur of this life.
Jesus is God’s life expressed in flesh and blood.
And this one sentence is enough to carry us not only through the prayers and songs of beauty saluting the wonders of creation, but it gets us through the ordinariness of life.
It pulls us back from the idea that life has really no meaning, except maybe a few dance steps, a couple of stories, and grit your teeth and take what comes.
This is not the world that God creates and this is not the world that Jesus would have us pay much attention to.
He has come for only one thing: that the world’s greatness and his Father’s love should once and for all receive the full meaning of what it means to follow Jesus.
And that is why this is a great story.
Because it is the wedding feast, the wedding feast of the Son. It is the wedding feast of the Son and everybody is invited — not just a group of people who held onto that faith for centuries.
And we pay great tribute to our Jewish brothers and sisters who continue to worship and care for the God they helped us understand down through the ages.
But now, for all to see, in today’s Gospel, Jesus comes and he says to the people before him, he said, “The message is not just for you, the message is for the whole world, from one end to the other.”
And some day it will happen, gradually and very much dependent on men and women who begin to understand why they’re here, and what is the task that we must do, and how is it that we can change what needs to be changed, and honour and give expression in song, in dance, in word, but in life, of the presence of a loving God.
His Son bound with the Holy Spirit have brought us as members of the children, the children who walk one with Jesus, who walks like a child. Remember when he said, “Unless you’re like a child, you’ll never know the mysteries of your Father.”
And the Spirit, who is like lightning and always with us, to bring light into the darkness, to bring courage to timid hearts, but, most of all, to bring love where there is no love, and care where there is no care, and good, honest feeling that we are indeed God’s children and we are indeed God’s family, and all the world, as the Chinese say, under heaven there is one Lord and one God.
Today, then, when you go home, or if you have a Bible, read the passage of today and you will find what Jesus is telling us in this story. You, yourself, must find out.
And what you must find out is: do you see the greatness of his joy and his love that overcomes all things, that we might say, “Our sweet Saviour, we thank you with all our hearts for coming among us and teaching what true and real love is, and how to become what our hearts hunger for.”
And they hunger for a good and honest and just world.
But, most of all, our hearts hunger for the love of God, who calls us into one family, and will make us, forever and ever, one family for all eternity.