Daily Homily: I Will Put My Spirit Within You

Thursday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

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Ezekiel 36:23-28
Psalm 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19
Matthew 22:1-14

Ezekiel promises that God will gather his scattered sheep under one shepherd and will establish with them a new covenant of peace through a descendant of King David. The people in exile will one day be brought back to the land and cleansed from all their impurities. This new beginning requires a new heart and a new spirit.

Our hearts of stone will be replaced by natural hearts. A stony heart does not give life to man, cannot be molded by God, and cannot welcome God. It has no room for anyone else by itself. A natural heart, given by God and filled with God’s Spirit, is a heart that gives life, allows God to teach it and form it according to his law, and is a place where God can reign. It is the heart given to man through the New Covenant. This New Covenant was ratified on the Cross, when Jesus’ own heart was pierced by a lance. Out of his heart flowed the waters of baptism, which gives man a new heart, and the blood of the Eucharist, which nourishes man’s new heart.

In the Gospel, Jesus has already entered into Jerusalem in a way that proclaims his kingship. He asserted his authority over the temple and condemned the corrupt temple authorities. Using three parables, Jesus shows that they have rejected him as Messiah. «They are like an unrepentant, disobedient son (21:28-32), wicked tenants who kill a landowner’s son (21:33-41), and foolish builders who reject the cornerstone (21:42). Jesus concludes by telling them that ‘the kingdom of God will be taken away from you’ and given to another people who will produce fruit (21:43-45)» (C. Mitch and E. Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Baker Academic, 263).

Like many other parables in Matthew, today’s parable is about the Kingdom of heaven. It is compared to a wedding feast that a king gives for his son. The king is God the Father; Jesus is the Son, the bridegroom. The king sends out his servants to invite the guests in advance. These servants are the prophets, who foretold the coming of the Messiah and used wedding imagery. When the banquet is prepared, the king sends his servants to gather the guests. These servants are Jesus’ apostles. The first invitation was rejected; the second invitation met with indifference and even rebellion.

The king responds by declaring this first group (invited twice) unworthy of the feast and by sending his servants to gather all men, both good and bad, into the wedding hall. This third invitation can be interpreted as the mission to the Gentiles and to all nations, led by Saint Paul and continued to this very day. When the king comes to the wedding hall, he sees a man who is not dressed with a wedding garment. This man is thrown out of the wedding feast. This is in agreement with other parables of the kingdom that teach that the wheat and the weeds will grow together until harvest (Matthew 13:24-30) and that the dragnet will collect both good fish and bad fish and these will be separated at the end of the age (Matthew 13:47-50).

When Jesus invites the people to a wedding feast, the messianic banquet of salvation, this recalls the prophecy of Hosea who foretold that «when the ingathering of ‘the people of Judah’ (the two tribes) and ‘the people of Israel (the ten tribes) under a future king takes place, God will wed himself to Israel his bride ‘as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt’ (Hos. 1:10-11; 2:14-23)» (B. Pitre, «Jesus, the Messianic Wedding Banquet, and the Restoration of Israel», Letter & Spirit 8 (2013), 40). «Rejecting the invitation to this wedding banquet means rejecting the ‘everlasting covenant’ that God will make with Israel and ‘the nations’ in the age of ‘salvation'» (B. Pitre, «Jesus, the Messianic Wedding Banquet…», 42).

Today’s parable also recalls the Old Testament story of King Hezekiah’s Passover banquet (2 Chronicles 30:1-26). Hezekiah and the prophets invited the northern tribes to come to the feast, but they rejected the invitation and persecuted and killed the prophets (see B. Pitre, «Jesus, the Messianic Wedding Banquet…», 45). Jesus is warning the people first not to reject the invitation to the feast and second to come to the feast proper way. The proper wedding garment is a «robe of righteousness» of the elect and a «garment of salvation» won for us by God (Isaiah 61:10).

How is it that someone can enter the king’s hall, yet not be dressed properly and thrown out? One response is that the Kingdom of God is both present and not yet fully realized (see B. Pitre, «Jesus, the Messianic Wedding Banquet…», 52). The kingdom is like a seed that grows, and both good and bad are allowed into the kingdom for a time. But when the king finally comes to the wedding banquet, there will be an eternal separation between the wheat and the weeds, between the sheep and the goats, between the good fish and the bad fish.

Each and every day of our lives here on earth, we are working with God on our wedding garment. On the one hand, every time we sin and reject God’s salvation, we are ruining the garment or even casting it aside into the mud. On the other, each deed of righteousness, each act of charity, every time we welcome God’s word and his grace, we making our wedding garment more beautiful and more pleasing to God. Our model is Mary, the woman clothed with a wedding garment more resplendent than the sun.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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