HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE TWENTY-EIGHT SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
TOPIC: THE CHRISTIAN GARMENT
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mt. 22:1-14 – The Parable of the Wedding Feast
Message # 205: “The Powerful Weapon”
1. The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother is giving us instructions on how to respond to God’s invitation: “Live in the immaculate love of my heart. Be little, poor, humble. Accept as a gift your fragility. Never seek either to affirm yourself, or to stand out above the others. The way along which I am leading you is that of hiddenness and of humiliation“ (letter e).
b) As to the wedding garment in the second parable, the Blessed Mother says: “Don’t be curious to know what is awaiting you, but, at each moment, live in perfect love” (letter f). Many of us are eager to know the future, the exact time of the Second Coming, and the events that will soon happen. These are not our concern. Our only preoccupation is to love, to give ourselves totally to God and to others, “because as you begin to do each thing there will be a corresponding help of the Lord, proportioned to your work.” This wedding garment – love, “pure and priestly love” – is actually the “perfect weapon” of the Blessed Mother in this decisive battle (letter h).
2. Background Information
a) October 07 – Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary It was Pope Pius V, known as the Pope of the Rosary, who formally declared this feast in 1572 to commemorate the naval victory of John of Austria over the Turks (Moslems) at Lepanto. In the Philippines, we have the La Naval event, which commemorates the victory of the Christians in the naval battle at Manila Bay against the Dutch. Below is a short historical background from Wikipedia:
In 1593, the new Spanish Governor-General Don Luis Pérez Dasmariñas, commissioned a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary for public veneration in memory of his recently deceased father. Under the direction of Captain Hernando de los Rios Coronel, the sculpture was made by an anonymous Chinese immigrant, who later converted to Christianity; this is the commonly cited reason for the statue’s Asian features. The statue was later given to the Dominican friars, who installed it at the Santo Domingo Church.
In 1646, naval forces of the Dutch Republic made several repeated attempts to conquer the Philippines in a bid to control trade in Asia. The combined Spanish and Filipino forces who fought were said to have requested the intercession of the Virgin through the statue prior to battle.
They were urged to place themselves under the protection of Our Lady of the Rosary and to pray the rosary repeatedly. They went on to rebuff the continued attacks by the superior Dutch fleet, engaging in five major battles at sea and losing only fifteen members of the Spanish Navy. After the Dutch retreat, in fulfillment of their vow, the survivors walked barefoot to the shrine in gratitude to the Virgin.
Later, on 9 April 1662, the cathedral chapter of the Archdiocese of Manila declared the naval victory a miraculous event owed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, declaring:
“granted by the Sovereign Lord through the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin and devotion to her Rosary, that the miracles be celebrated, preached and held in festivities and to be recounted amongst the miracles wrought by the Lady of the Rosary for the greater devotion of the faithful to Our Most Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Holy Rosary.
Pope Pius X authorized granting the statue a canonical crown in 1906, which was bestowed by the Apostolic Delegate to the Philippines, The Most Rev. Ambrose Agius, O.S.B.. During the Japanese bombardment in 1942, fearing that the statue would be destroyed, church authorities hid the statue at the University of Santo Tomas until 1946, the 300th anniversary of the battles.
The statue was transferred in October 1954 to a new shrine built to house it inside the new Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City–the sixth Santo Domingo Church since its erection in the late sixteenth century. For this journey, devotees constructed a boat-shaped carriage (Spanish: Carroza Triunfal) to carry the image to its new home, which was declared her National Shrine by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. In October 1973, La Naval was formally declared the patroness of Quezon City, at that time the national capital.
Pope John Paul II – “It could be said that each mystery of the rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man. ‘Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you’ (Ps 55:23).
To pray the rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother. The rosary does indeed ‘mark the rhythm of human life,’ bringing it into harmony with the ‘rhythm’ of God’s own life, in the joyful communion of the Holy Trinity, our life’s destiny and deepest longing. Through the rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.”
Pope John Paul II mentions two important things here. First, we can never fully understand our life as human beings. It is full of mystery. But when we pray the rosary, meditating on its mysteries, we will discover the meaning of life, we will learn to cast our burdens on the Lord as we put our life in rhythm with the life of God. This simply means praying the rosary makes us closer to God, “in joyful communion of the Holy Trinity”, and then we will realize how beautiful our life is. Second, we trust that devotion to the rosary will give us abundant heavenly graces. Mary intercedes for us, for after all, she is the Mediatrix of All Graces.
b) God’s universal plan of salvation. It has been the will of God from eternity that all men, being his creatures, will be saved. This is very clear in the Sacred Scriptures, both in the Old and New Testaments. God did everything for the salvation of mankind, starting from the fall of man in Genesis to the prophets and finally in the Incarnation of His Son Jesus. God wants everybody to be saved. Unfortunately, God can only invite; He cannot impose His will on man. This is because man has his freedom. And God cannot violate man’s freedom. Man can accept or reject God’s invitation to salvation. In case man rejects, God can only patiently wait for his conversion and return, as shown in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
c) Man’s freedom. In God’s unfathomable wisdom and boundless love for man, He gave him not only the gift of life, but also the gift of freedom. This is what is meant by the statement in Genesis: “God created man in His image and likeness.” Freedom is what distinguishes man from the rest of creation. He is not a slave of his instincts; he can choose and decide freely. And when he uses the gift of freedom properly, and responds to God in love, he becomes the image and likeness of God.
Unfortunately, due to the corruption of sin, initiated by our first parents, man is prone to abuse freedom. For many, they believe that freedom is the power to do anything he likes and wants. This misconception is the most common reason for the abuse of freedom. But the truth is, freedom is not the power to do anything we want; it is the power to do good. God created us in His image and likeness. It belongs to our nature to be good. Doing something bad or sinful does not belong to our nature; it is a corruption or violation of our nature as God’s image and likeness. It is an abuse or wrong use of our freedom. According to St. Paul, sin is not freedom; it is slavery. The only time we become free is when we are able to turn away from sin. That is the experience of everyone who receives absolution in the sacrament of Confession.
Unfortunately, since we are free, we can choose to use our freedom properly or we can decide to abuse it. God can do nothing but wait for our enlightenment and conversion. That is how great the love of God is for all of us.
We may recall an event in the life of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), also a great promoter of the Rosary (he wrote 12 Encyclicals and 5 Apostolic Letters). One day, in a dream, he had a vision of Satan talking with God. He was belittling the redemptive work of Jesus. He said that people only obey God because they are afraid of hell, and not because they love God. He challenged God to release him and the demons from hell for a hundred years, and in this way they can test who among the people really belong to God. God accepted the challenge. So for a hundred years, all the demons in hell are roaming the world, tempting and deceiving people. When Pope Leo XIII woke up, he immediately composed the Prayer to St. Michael. This prayer was always said towards the end of the celebration of Holy Mass. This vision must also be the reason why this Pope was so zealous in promoting devotion to the Rosary. This must be true because we have seen in this last century the worst events in human history: 2 world wars, Freemasonry, abortions, immoralities and all kinds of sacrileges and offenses against God. This event also is an illustration that God wants all men to respond to his invitation freely, and without any imposition or force on His part. He allows the devil to test us so that our decision to follow Him is totally ours and totally free.
3. Reflections on the Sunday Gospel a) The Invitation to the Wedding Banquet. This parable brings out several beautiful truths about God’s love for us. The king prepares a grand wedding banquet. In biblical tradition, a banquet is the image used for salvation, God’s final victory. The wedding is the celebration of the eschatological union of God with mankind who were ransomed by Christ’s blood on the cross.
So the image of a grand wedding banquet prepared by the king describes God’s eternal desire and plan to save mankind. In a banquet or feast, there is always abundance of food and drink. These vital elements signify life, joy, fellowship and salvation.
The mere fact that God invites us to this wedding feast is supreme good news for us. The servants sent to summon the guests are the prophets. They are the spokespersons of God.
Unfortunately, however, the first invited guests did not come. They are the Israelites. (The story about the second invitation and the killing of the servants by the invited guests may not be originally part of the parable.) As a result of this rejection, the king sent his invitation to those on the streets, all kinds of people without distinction. These are the non-Jews, the Gentiles. They accepted the invitation and entered the banquet. Salvation was offered first to the Chosen People, but they rejected it. So it was offered to the Gentiles and they joyfully accepted it.
b) The Parable of the Man not properly dressed. This is another story in the Gospel, although very much linked with the first one. A man accepted the invitation, but he was not properly dressed. St. Augustine, in his interpretation of the text, has this to say about the wedding garment:
“There is no doubt at all that it is a garment which only the good have, those who are to be left at the banquet, preserved for the banquet to which no bad person has access, to be brought through to it by the grace of the Lord. These are the ones who have on the wedding garment. So, what is that wedding garment? This is the wedding garment: ‘But the goal of the commandment,’ says the Apostle (Paul) ‘is love from a pure heart, and from a good conscience and from an unfeigned faith.’ It’s only such love that is the wedding garment.”
Anybody can accept God’s invitation to salvation. But we have to clothe ourselves with the garment of love. St. Paul said, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col 3:12-14). After all, that is the only commandment of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you.” That is the only garment or uniform that will distinguish us from the rest of mankind: “By this shall all men know you as my disciples: your love for one another.”
4. Closing Song:
“Hiram Sa Diyos”
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
1. Sa iyong personal na karanasan, alin ang mas malakas na imbitasyon: ang sa Diyos, o ang sa mundo?
2. Tuwing araw ng Linggo, ang Araw ng Panginoon, inaanyayahan tayong dumalo sa Banal na Misa, ang Piging ng Panginoon. Ano ang madalas na mga dahilan na hindi tayo nakakatugon sa paanyaya na ito?
3. Ang “kasuotang pangkasal” ay pag-ibig sa Diyos at sa kapwa. Lahat ng ating mga gawain, kilos, ugali, at mga plano sa buhay ay dapat nabibihisan ng diwa ng pag-ibig. Basahin at pagnilayan ang Unang Sulat ni San Pablo sa mga Taga-Corinto, capitulo 13 (1Cor 13).
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