YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: WEARING THE RIGHT ASOEBI (GARMENT) TO THE MOUNTAINOUS BANQUET*
(Ihaziela asoebi gi?)
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY: R1 – Is 25:6-10
Resp. Ps. – Ps. 23
R2 – Phil4:12-14, 19-20
Gospel- Matt 22:1-10
There was a legend about a couple, who had been happily married for almost 26 years. The husband loved ice cream that he could forgo food for ice cream. At a point, he was diagnosed of diabetes and other pathological ailments and was given a matching order to avoid sugery, starchy and fatty foods. What an impossible lifestyle!
However, the wife who had great interest in health, food, and exercise, had always warned him against sugery and fatty foods, became his nutritionist and more like a gadfly, who compelled and propelled him to take the necessary precautionary measures against his ailment as prescribed by the doctor.
One faithful day, in the absence of the wife, the man who had detested the wife’s hard marking over his favourite meals, went and bought ice cream and licked to his fill. The reaction led him into coma. The wife’s fire brigade response to rescue him resulted in an auto crash. They both died as the wife who sped off to rescue the husband hit a trailer.
As they matched to the judgement throne, galore of blames arose. The man was so embittered that he started blaming the wife for rough driving. The wife in return blamed the man for causing the unrest (licking ice cream) that led to the health emergency.
When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and master bath suite, Jacuzzi and lavish furniture and luxurious fittings. “How much can we pay?” asked the man. “Don’t you understand?” Peter replied. “This is Heaven, someone paid the price 2000 years ago; it’s all free!”
They woke up the next morning, went to the clubhouse of Heaven’s extensive golf grounds, the man who loved the billionaires’ sports, shyed away from playing until he was told by Peter that it was free and that someone paid for it 2000 years ago.
Finally, after an elaborate and joyous fun time at the golf ground, they went for breakfast and saw the lavish rolling table buffet for breakfast with assorted dishes. The table rolled; guess what stopped before the man… big plate of ice cream. The man shouted, ” HOLY GHOST FIRE. ICE CREAM AGAIN? “Well,” he asked Peter “where are the low-sugar, low-fat and low-cholesterol tables?” the old man asked timidly. Peter replied, “That’s the best part…
This is that glorious mountain banquet the prophet Isaiah spoke about, (Isaiah 25:6); where Yahweh Sabaoth is preparing a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of succulent food, of well-strained wines for all peoples.
You can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get diabetes, fat and you never get sick. No more sorrows, no more sickness, no more family problems, no more road hazards, no more shame, etc. This is Heaven, relax, oga.”
The man happily embraced the wife and thanked her for the accident saying, “You could have hit this trailer 10 years ago and we were in that useless and frustrating world wasting away, struggling to make every ends meet in a vicious circle and infinite regress.”
Beloved in Christ, in today’s liturgy, Jesus offers us a universal invitation (fides quae) to the everlasting joyful Heavenly wedding banquet; anticipating each of us to individually (fides qua) honour this invitation by constantly wearing the right wedding asoebi (garment).
In the first reading, Isaiah describes this Messianic banquet on the Lord’s mountain in the Holy City of Jerusalem, where there will be no more sickness of any kind, sorrows, family quarrels, professional hazards, vocational crisis and career uncertainties and life’s challenges (ihe adighi ka onye si chee ya); which Yahweh is preparing for His people.
In the Gospel, the Evangelist, Mathew, explains that the wedding feast is exclusively meant for those who have sown and made ready their asoebi (wedding garment). Nwannem, inwetego your own asoebi?
There are three fundamental questions that would serve as veritable tools and codes in unlocking and understanding the readings of today’s liturgy, viz:
(1) Why did Jesus associate the end time with marriage in the parable?
(2) Of what significance is mountain to this wedding feast? Why is it on the mountain top?
(3) Why is asoebi a do-without for this banquet and of what style and colour?
(1) WHY DID JESUS ASSOCIATE THE END TIME WITH MARRIAGE IN THE PARABLE?
Jesus had always used the allegory of wedding feast to teach about the events of the end time in His parables and illustrations. For example:
(i) The parable of Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13)
(ii) The parable of the wedding Feast (Mtt. 22)
(iii) The announcement of the Marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 12:1-9)
(iv) The 144, 000 who follow the lamb wherever He goes (Rev. 14)
Furthermore, weddings were such an important occasion in Palestine in Christ’s days that people were expected to wear the proper clothing to show appreciation and respect for the invitation — clothing, provided by the host!
However, in each of these, Jesus presents Himself as the bridegroom and we Christians as the brides. The adjective, “groom” is of great importance in this context. The word “groom” is rendered in Greek as ” γαμπρός” (gamprós), which means, “ostler or a hostler.” A hostler is one employed to take care of the horses. That is why in the responsorial Psalm (Ps. 23), Jesus manifests himself as the Good shepherd (Jn. 10:11), who nourishes, leads, and protects His flock. As the eternal bridegroom, Jesus transforms us from sinners into a saints; freeing and setting us free from captivity; leading us out of demerits to merits and from incompetence to competence.
In the second reading, St. Paul advises the Philippians to put their trust in the power and goodness of a providing God, Who, in Jesus, has given His Church everything His followers will need to participate in the Heavenly Banquet.
(2) OF WHAT SIGNIFICANCE IS MOUNTAIN TO THIS WEDDING FEAST? WHY IS IT ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP?
Biblically, mountain has two meanings:
(a) A STUMBLING BLOCK: The scripture most often uses the mountain allegorically to represent obstacles. For instance:
(i) In the presence of God the mountain shall melt like wax (Psalm 97:5)
(ii) Mountains will melt under him like wax near a fire. Valleys will split apart like water pouring down a steep hill (Micah 1:4).
(ii) If you have faith, you can command this mountain to move, (Matt. 21:21; Mk. 11:23) etc.
(b) A PLACE OF DIVINE ENCOUNTER
This is chiefly the truest context that suits the exegetical interpretation of our texts this morning.
Mountain is a place where you experience God as He truly is. The scripture says, “where you have come to is mount Zion, the city of the living God, where millions of angels have gathered for festival (Heb. 12:22).
A place where our problems bow before God (Obediah 1:17).
The following Divine encounters took place on the mountain:
(i) Noah’s ship rested at Mount Ararat (Gen. 8)
(ii) Abraham’s sacrifice took place on Mount Horeb (Gen. 22)
(iii) Moses received the Decalogue at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20, 34)
(iv) The context with the prophets of Baal took place on Mount Carmel (1Kgs. 18)
(v) Elijah traveled 40 days to consult God at Mount Horeb (1Kgs. 19)
(vi) Jesus prayed and fasted 40 days sans 40 nights on the mountain (Matt. 4:1-4).
(vii) Tranafiguration experience took place on a mountain (Matt. 17)
(viii) The price of our sins was perfectly paid for of Mount Calvary (Matt. 27).
(3) WHY IS ASOEBI A DO-WITHOUT FOR THIS BANQUET AND OF WHAT STYLE AND COLOUR?
To address this question, we need to recall the Psalmist’s agitations: WHO SHALL CLIMB THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD? (Psalm 24:3)
(i) The man with clean hands and pure of heart.
(ii) Whose heart is not set on vanities (iii) Who does not swear an oath in order to deceive. (Psalm 24:4)
(iv) Whoever lives blamelessly, who acts uprightly,
(v) Who speaks the truth from the heart.
(vi) Who keeps the tongue under control,
(vii) Who does not wrong a comrade, who casts no discredit on a neighbour,
(viii) Who looks with scorn on the vile, but honours those who fear Yahweh, (ix) Who stands by an oath at any cost,
(x) Who asks no interest on loans, who takes no bribe to harm the innocent.
WHO AMONG US IS ELIGIBLE TO CLIMB THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD UNDER THESE SCRIPTURAL QUALIFICATIONS?
Through sins, we have disfigured, rumpled, torn and stained the wedding asoebi (garment) of righteousness vested on us at baptism. We are now wearing garments of shame, disgrace, sickness, darkness, prostitution, cheating, fornication, calumny, gossip, character assassination, adultery, unforgiveness and unrepentance.
(Song: Onye bu onyeoma…? Odighi onye bu onye oma ma otu)
God recognizes that:
~ If God should mark our iniquities who can stand (Psalm 130:3)
~ We have all sinned and gone short of His glory ( Rom. 3:23)
~ We become liers when we claim we have no sin (1Jn. 1:8)
God only expects us this morning to pick up our white wedding asoebi given to us at baptism, which we may have disfigured, stained, rumpled, rendered dirty and filthy by our sins and wash them anew inorder to take part in this mountainous rich wedding banquet of love and purity, by constantly being in the state of grace. REMEMBER, HE SEEKS OUR AVAILABILITY MORE THAN OUR ABILITY (PSALM 40:6-7).
ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE WASHED THEMSELVES WITH THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB ARE THE ONLY QUALIFIED ELECTS WHO SHALL FOLLOW THE BRIDEGROOM (LAMB) IN THE MOUNTAINOUS BANQUET
I answered him, ‘You can tell me,
sir.’ Then he said, ‘These are the
people who have been through
the great trial; they have washed
their robes white again in the
blood of the Lamb.
HOW CAN WE PRACTICALLY PARTICIPATE IN THIS MOUNTAINOUS WEDDING BANQUET
(1) By actively participating at the Eucharistic meal (Jn. 6:53).
(2) By constantly washing our wedding garments at the confessional through the Sacrament of Penance (Jn. 20:33)
(3) By being in the state of grace always, since the time of the arrival of the groom (Jesus Christ) is uncertain; by living honest, sincere, pure and chaste life (Matt. 24:36; 25:5-6)
Finally, at the end of World War II, the Russian head-of-state gave an elaborate banquet to honor the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The Russians arrived in their best formal wear — military dress uniforms — but their honored guest did not. Churchill arrived wearing his famous zipper coveralls that he had worn during the German bomb attack in London. He thought it would provide a nostalgic touch the Russians would appreciate. They did not. They were humiliated and insulted that their prominent guest-of-honor had not considered their banquet worthy of his best clothes.
Think of how good you feel when you see someone you gave some article of clothes, fittingly rocking it.
Beloved in Christ, wearing the right clothing to a formal dinner honors the host and the occasion; neglecting to wear the right clothing is an insult. Jesus demands us to always wear the wedding garment of purity and righteousness, He provided for each us us at baptism.
Blessed are those who will
have washed their robes clean,
so that they will have the right
to feed on the tree of life and
can come through the gates
into the city.
MAY GOD GIVE US THE GRACE TO ALWAYS GET READY FOR THE PROMPTINGS AND ARRIVAL OF THE ETERNAL BRIDEGROOM; BY CONSTANTLY KEEPING OUR WEDDING ASOEBI (GARMENT) OF PURITY RIGHTEOUSNESS SPARKLING WHITE AND UNDAINTED.
GOD BLESS YOU!
FR GERALD MUOKA