HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY-EIGHT SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
HOMILY THEME: COME TO THE BANQUET
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
Are you one of those who think that religion is only a dry, gloomy and ascetic exercise? Then Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Feast will surely shock you. This parable presents God as a chief host of a banquet where he offers juicy rich food and pure choice wines. The prophet Isaiah predicted about this banquet many centuries before (25:6-10).
This great banquet of the Lord reminds me of the famous Danish movie of the 1980s titled Babette’s Feast. The movie is a story of a Pastor of a small Christian sect. He had two daughters, Martine and Philippa. These two daughters attained the age of marriage and had suitors who will take them out of their locality, but they stayed back to serve their aged father and their local church. After the death of their father, a French refugee, Babette, a Catholic came to ask if she could live with them.
These two protestant sisters treated Babette so kindly, and Babette always prayed for a special opportunity to express how grateful she was. Fortunately, Babette won a lottery of 100,000 Francs, at a time when the two sisters were about to celebrate the 100th birthday of their late Father. Babette requested that they allow her to organise the birthday banquet and cook the meals. Martin and Philippa let her go ahead with the preparations for the meals. Babette spent all her fortune in preparing for this feast. She ordered for the most exotic food ingredients and the best wines from Paris.
Members of the sect were invited to this elaborate banquet. Since after the death of the former Pastor (Martine and Philippa’s father), the Church had stopped growing and only very old members remained. There were all kinds of quarrels and misunderstanding between members. The church members had never seen the need for a banquet and considered a banquet as something worldly.
However, this banquet became a life-changing experience for them. It became a good opportunity for reconciliation between members of the sect who had daggers drawn at each other. The banquet turned out to be a fellowship of love, a special moment for reunion and opportunity for sharing. Even though the members of this sect were very serious and committed Christians, they forgot that religion was not only about fasting, but also it is also about feasting. St. Paul emphasises a balanced Christian life when he says, I know how to feast and I know how to fast (Philippians 4:12).
God always desires the happiness of his people and so he invites them to a banquet where they will enjoy the best meals and where he will wipe away the tears from every face (cf. Isaiah 25:6-10). He is a God so concerned about your welfare that he prepares a table for you in the sight of your foes (Psalm 23:5).
Christians must not be dead serious always in order to be taken seriously, but Christians are called to be cheerful and joyful people. They are not to make the world a dull and boring space but they are to light up the world with joy and laughter.
Jesus narrates a parable of King who was preparing a wedding feast for his son and who sends invitations to special guests. The special guests treated the invitation with contempt and levity. They did not only ignore the invitation but treated the servants of the king shamefully and killed the innocent messengers. The king was unhappy with the behaviour of the invited guests and he took justice to them for the crime of murder. He punished the murderers and burnt their city. He declared the cruel invited guests as unworthy of the feasts. Eventually, he threw an open invitation to everyone on the street – to occupy the position of the absent special invitees.
This parable of the wedding goes to show that God invites everyone to a feast, but not everyone responds. Those who refuse to respond positively to God’s open invitation are those who are too busy with their business; they are preoccupied by their business deals and transactions and have little or no time for community activities. These are people who have misplaced their scale of priority by placing their material need far over and above their spiritual needs.
Even though the wedding feast was an open invitation, there was only one requirement – everyone is to come with the prescribed dress code. We notice the anger of the king in the parable when he went into the banquet, he noticed that one of the guests did not comply with the requirement for dressing and immediately, the guest was thrown out. The dress code reminds us of the symbolic white garment given at baptism, which is the outward sign of Christian dignity. The wedding garment has a deeper meaning than a physical garment. The garment is that which identifies a true member – character, attitude, kindness, love, goodness and mercy, etc.
The parable of the wedding banquet shows the lighter side of God who invites his people to feast from his abundance. The Holy Eucharist (Mass) is also banquet where many are invited to the table of the Lord to partake. Our happiness depends on our response to this free, open and generous invitation. Life is a celebration and it is about celebrating the goodness and providence of God. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). Join always in this banquet, but never forget to put on the right garment!
28th Sunday of the Year A; Isaiah 25:6-10a; Philippians 10:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14.