Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday word, 12 Oct 2008

28th Sunday of the Year A (12 Oct 2008)
Is 25. 6-10a; Ps 23; Phil 4. 12-14,19-20; Mt 22. 1-14
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Starting Point

Connotations are the starting points of meaning for us.

  • Take the word "meal," and we usually think first of good nourishment. Farmers may think first of feed for fowl, and bakers may think first of corn meal to dust baking sheets.
  • Take the word banquet, and we may think of more than nourishment, such as too much to eat or, a dinner in conjunction with a gala.
  • Take the word death, and we may think of a particular point in time when life ceases in a living being.
Pausing to consider meanings which come first to us is important because scriptural language, which is Mediterranean language, exceeds the connotations usual to us. Sometimes scriptural connotations clash with our expected meanings. Scriptural connotations always burst human meanings. Scriptural language and images are the vocabulary of worship. Two examples: Jesus took bread, gave thanks, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it;/1/ and a priest’s greeting at mass quotes St. Paul: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!/2/

Our readings exemplify the differences between scripture’s connotations and our understanding. Isaiah announced God’s desire of life with an image of a feast of choicest things. The image surpasses good nourishment and points to God’s total restoration of humans and their original blessing: the reproach of his people [God] will remove from the whole earth. In the words of the Twenty-third Psalm, which we echoed, God’s companionship with us allows us to move through the dark valley of death--in scripture no single point in time.

In the Mediterranean world life without honor was--and is for many today--unthinkable. Life without honor was no life at all. The phrase, “to die a thousand deaths,” helps us appreciate that the death God would destroy...forever was no single moment in time. God would destroy every force inimical to humans.

This process of God restoring our original blessing was accepted by the people to whom Isaiah announced God’s desire. "This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!"

Jesus’ parable contrasts people who accept with people who reject God’s invitation. Rejecting God’s invitation to allow God to begin to restore us now and to completely restore us when the kingdom dawns is always a temptation we face. If any of us think that temptation does not affect us, the end of the parable warns us to be on guard.

Those who accepted the invitation, coming in from the main roads and streets, followed wedding banquet conventions and came in proper attire--all but one. Not putting on a guest’s wedding garment, that is, not acting in character as disciples and friends of Jesus, is that temptation we face often. For us Christians actions are so important. Actions flow from the inner-self, to paraphrase Jesus, and our actions above all, as Jesus will remind us as the liturgical year closes next month, guarantees our place in the kingdom-banquet.

That’s why the parable’s king ordered his servants to fill his hall with both the bad and good alike. If that shocks us, then the hymn we sing in God’s voice at communion should shock us no less: “O come and sit at my table where saints and sinners are friends.”/3/

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, calm yourself in the inviting love of the Trinity. Jesus seeks you through word and sacrament; accept his invitation to welcome you and restore you. Speak to Jesus about how you reject him and how you accept him. Resolve to act in ways in harmony with his gospel. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, our guide for Christian action for both new and veteran Catholics.
1. St. Paul and the Evangelists grouped these actions of Jesus together.
2. 1 Corinthians 1.3.
3. Dan Schutte, “Table of Plenty,” #312, verse 1, ©1992, Daniel L. Schutte, OCP Publications,
Breaking Bread, 2007.
Wiki-image of cornucopia of fruits and vegetables is used according to the GFDL. Wiki-image of Russian icon of Paradise is in the public domain.

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