28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A ON OCTOBER 11TH, 2020 (R. 1: Isaiah 25: 6- 10a; Psalm 23: 1- 6; R. 2: Philippians 4: 12- 14, 19- 20; Gospel: Matthew 22: 1- 14)

FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO

REMEMBER THE DRESS CODE!

A certain man held a feast on his fine estate in town,

He laid a festive table, and wore a wedding suit,

He sent invitations to his neighbors far and wide,

but when the meal was ready, each of them replied, “I cannot come”

 

I cannot come to the banquet, don’t trouble me now

I have married a wife; I have bought me a cow

I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum

Pray hold me excused, I cannot come.

Today, we come to the end of the three parables we started reflecting on, two Sundays ago. Remember, it all began after the Triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus. The chief priests and the elders of the people were not happy with the words and actions of Jesus, and so they began to set various traps for Jesus. To get them into their own traps, Jesus decided to tell them three parables. They could not recognize themselves in the parables, so after each parable, they quickly passed judgments against themselves.

Today’s parable has a primary meaning, and a secondary meaning. In the primary sense, it refers to the relationship between God and the Jews at that time. God is the King who organized the wedding feast. Jesus Christ is the Son of the King. The prophets were the servants, who delivered the invitation. The Jews at that time were the ones who declined the first invitation, while the Gentiles and the sinners were the ones who later got the invitation and honored it.

It was normal in Jewish customs to send two invitations for a feast. The first invitation was like a “save the date” without a specific date and time. It told the invitee about the feast without stating the exact date and time. The second invitation was sent as soon as everything was ready. It was this second invitation when everything was ready that was turned down.

Going by the primary interpretation, God, sent an invitation to the Jews at that time through the prophets to be his chosen people, to prepare them for the arrival of the Kingdom of God, but He did not tell them the exact time. When the Kingdom arrived in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, they declined the invitation by rejecting Jesus Christ. So, God extended the invitation to the Gentiles and the sinners, who honored it.

The secondary sense of the parable in the first place is meant to remind us who are Christians that the invitation to us from God is to a feast that is as joyous as a wedding banquet. Many a time, Christians think that the call to Christianity is a call to shun all forms of feasting. Some Christians think that the best way they can be recognized as Christians is by carrying around gloomy faces. The truth is that a gloomy Christian is a contradiction, since we have been called to a wedding banquet as Christians.

Furthermore, the parable is meant to remind us to beware of the second best. Many of those who were invited to the wedding feast responded:

I cannot come to the banquet, don’t trouble me now

I have married a wife; I have bought me a cow

I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum

Pray hold me excused, I cannot come. 

The things that prevented them from honoring the invitation were not bad in themselves. They went for things that were legitimate in themselves: farm, business, and marriage. Similarly, the things that prevent us sometimes from benefitting from the special blessings of God may not be bad things in themselves. We can be so carried away by the things of time that we deny ourselves of eternity; we can be so preoccupied by the things we see that we miss the greater things that are unseen; we can become so busy making a living that we forget to make a life; we can be so attentive to the promises of this world that we become deaf to the gentle invitation from God. In every competition, the greatest threat to the first position is always the second best. So, beware of the second best!

Finally, we may wonder, “What a wicked King! Why did he maltreat the man who was not with wedding garment even though his invitation came very late?” Some commentators explain that the King provided the wedding garments at the entrance of the hall, and that the invitee deliberately chose not to put one on. The grace of God is not only a gift but also a responsibility. It is true that the door is open to all, but whoever comes in must live in accordance with the desire of the King. St. Augustine did say that the wedding garment stands for charity. St. Paul writing to the Colossians did say, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14). The door to the grace of God is open to the sinner, but when the sinner comes in, the sinner must put on the garment of love: love for God and neighbor. May the love of God be upon us always as we place all our hope in God through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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