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A Scripture Reflection for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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October 15, 2017

By Anne McGowan | October 15, 2017

 

A Scripture Reflection for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 15, 2017: Is 25:6-10a, Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6, Phil 4:12-14, 19-20, Mt 22:1-14

 

 

The Scriptures proclaimed in the Sunday assembly challenge and comfort us on a recurring three-year cycle, but they strike us in a different place with each triennial hearing as our world and our personal circumstances change. This time around it is impossible to relish the rich imagery of feasting in these readings without also remembering people in Puerto Rico and other hurricane-ravaged areas desperate for basic food and clean water, let alone rich food and choice wines. Even a modest human banquet is a distant dream for those caught up in the politics of famine or the ongoing migrant and refugee crises-or the economics of food deserts. People have found themselves suddenly cast out of their homes by earthquakes and mudslides and monsoon floods. God's promise to destroy death forever comes as people in America are grappling again with the capacity for human persons to destroy one another in the wake of one more mass shooting.

 

God emerges in the midst of all this as the host of the hungry ones. God will provide a feast that satisfies material and spiritual hungers while upending the expectations of those who take their invitation for granted. Hosting is hard work and requires managing the event's overall vision on the one hand and its many details on the other. Having recently planned a party to celebrate my daughter's baptism, I approached these readings with relief that hosting was God's job, leaving me to aspire to the role of "good guest." It is God's responsibility and not ours to issue invitations to the banquet of the kingdom of heaven and to judge those who come to sit at the table.

 

If God invited you to a feast today, how would you respond? Do you identify most with the ones in the Gospel parable who were too preoccupied with their own affairs to come after the final announcement that the feast was ready? (In terms of personal failures as a guest, I completely neglected to attend a family birthday celebration a few weeks ago after a particularly sleep-deprived night with the aforementioned baby daughter erased all thoughts of any short-term plans beyond taking an afternoon nap, so I empathize with them in particular this year.) Can we imagine ourselves among the ones who reacted to the invitation-bearing servants with such resentment and hostility that we miss the underlying opportunity to our own detriment? Are we grateful just to be included at all, even if we know we must be among the second-string guests? And what about the man not dressed in a wedding garment who was cast into the darkness? Biblical exegetes debate about what exactly this garment represents-perhaps repentance or righteousness or even the garment of baptism. Some propose that it was customary for the host of an ancient Mediterranean banquet to provide guests with appropriate festal garments upon their arrival. Thus, despite his last-minute invitation, this person may bear some personal responsibility for his apparent lack of preparation to enter fully into the festivities. Just showing up seems to be insufficient, but outfitting oneself properly for the kingdom of heaven must be orders of magnitude more difficult than it was to outfit my three-year old with the appropriate garments for his parish preschool's uniform code.

 

For us as Christians, an invitation to God's banquet is not hypothetical or reserved only for the Eschaton when Christ returns in glory as the Bridegroom the Church has been awaiting. Every week we are called together as the ragtag assembly of the redeemed people of God to feast on a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Some Sundays we are more responsive and better prepared; we are always welcomed anyway. We almost invariably begin our liturgy by asking God's mercy for our conduct unbefitting ones who are all strangers and guests on this earth. We are fed with God's Word and consume Christ's Body. We are sent out from this assembly empowered by the Spirit to carry Christ's presence into a hungry world. While God will provide the final feast for us in the kingdom of heaven, we can be now God's servants who invite others and God's guests who are not satisfied until all are fed.

The above image is from the Public Domain.

 

 

 
 
Anne McGowan
Assistant Professor of Liturgy
 
 
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