Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday word, 12 Oct 14

Jesus’ Invitation Never Expires
28th Sunday of the Year A (12 Oct 2014)
Is 26. 6-10a; Ps 23; Phil 4. 12.14, 19–20; Mt 22. 1-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Parables put familiar experiences or views next to less familiar ones. The familiar helps listeners so they appreciate what is less familiar. Parables do that with vivid, life-like imagery.1 Exceptions exist for everything, parables, included. Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet has some odd features that can distract us. Let me do three things briefly: first, name the distracting features; second, ask why they are present; third, find a purpose Jesus intended.

We cannot accept all invitations we receive. We even ignore a few. Mistreating and killing those who offer invitations, though, is unreal. Feeling enraged at such violence is real, but for a king both to respond in kind and burn their city is over the top. The city was home to people innocent of the tragedy. Why did Matthew shape Jesus’ parable that way?

Parables of Jesus were retold long before Matthew and others wrote them. Matthew selected parables from his sources and shaped them into his gospel, placing some here, others there. Holy Spirit affirmed his creativity. Holy Spirit routinely works through human efforts.2

Matthew wrote his gospel after the Romans killed citizens of Jerusalem and burned it. Ancients saw in tragedies worked by humans and by nature punishment by divine powers. The long-in-coming split between Jews who did not believe in risen Jesus and those who did colored Matthew’s community. Matthew’s community readily connected the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the refusal to believe in Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

Believers in risen Jesus as Messiah and Lord saw Jesus as the parable’s son of the king. The king gave a wedding feast for his son. Why did Jesus tell this parable? Those to whom Jesus addressed his parable are key to notice Jesus’ purpose when he told it: Jesus again…spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables. Jesus addressed the parables of the previous two Sundays and today to those who rejected him and even sought to kill him3: the chief priests and elders of the people. The parable of the wedding banquet Jesus directed against the chief priests and elders of the people. Jesus’ invited all to attend the wedding banquet; the chief priests and elders refused to attend. Their hearts were hostile and hard.

The first reading and psalm invite us to focus on the banquet invitation. Prophet Isaiah: God has long desired to provide for all…a feast of rich food and choice wines. The Psalmist: God’s goodness and kindness…overflows with nourishing delight for living day to day. The famous Twenty-third Psalm uses banquet table imagery to awaken our hearts to our deep hungers, hungers only God in Jesus by their Spirit can satisfy. Why this focus? Because Jesus continues to invite all of us and everyone.

Our fast-paced, busy, even frantic, days can numb us to our desires and God’s desires for us. The intersection of God’s desires for us—who God creates each moment—and our desires to live lives with meaning and creative energy: the intersection of God’s desires for us and our deep desires to live meaningful lives is a window on each one’s fuller Christian living. Full Christian living is marked above all by generous charity. We name its practice holiness. Living this holiness [promotes]…a more human manner of living.4 Holiness does not oppose humane living; it promotes it.

Holiness is first a gift, a grace our triune God offers us. A way to connect with one’s gift of holiness is to pause and consider one’s gifts today. God creates me a Jesuit priest; God creates you with personal gifts and talents to live your vocations; God creates everyone with roles in the church of Jesus and the world. Jesus’ wedding banquet parable invites us to ask ourselves holy questions; a quiet pause helps us answer them:
  • Did I resist Jesus inviting me to draw nearer to him?
  • Did I resist Jesus desiring to be my companion today?
  • Did I harden my heart toward Jesus or another?
  • Did I go it alone and resist the merciful affection and help of Jesus, his Father and their Spirit?
  • Did I live as though God offers me no riches or rich, pure, choice nourishing help?
I placed these questions on the Spiritual Exercise of the Week blog for you to use and to help you shape holiness-questions to ask each day. With them and the merciful affection and help of Jesus, his Father and their Spirit any-one can respond more freely to Jesus’ invitation to his banquet. His invitation never expires.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for you; thank him for inviting you to share his life; consider when and how you may have resisted him or hardened your heart toward him.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to respond more freely to his constant invitation to join him and share his life.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. His words, give us…our daily bread, more than ask for physical nourishment. The sustenance supplied by our triune God exceeds food. It nourishes us to live holy, humane, joyful lives that collaborate with God and others.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Visit a helpful guide to parables.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #107, succinctly expressed this.
  3. Matthew 26.4.
  4. Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, 40.

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