An Invitation to Live Not Only to Eat

Lectio Divina: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

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Roman Rite –Twenty-eight Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A – October 12, 2014

Is 25,6-10; Ps 23; Phil 4,12-14.19-20; Mt 22, 1-14

Ambrosian Rite – Seventh Sunday after the martyrdom of Saint John the Precursor

Is 65,8 -12; Sal 80; 1Cor 9,7 -12; Mt 13, 3b-23

1) Constant invitation to celebrate and to live life as a celebration of joy.

Among the parables told by Jesus, there is the one about a king who hosts a wedding dinner to which eligible guests don’t want to participate. This refusal pushes the king to extend the invitation to all the other people. Jesus presents us the Father as the one who «invites the whole world to the wedding of his Son.»

I think that it is fair to say that the main concern of this king is to share the joy of the wedding of his son with those who are called, namely all people. In fact, if we read the parable along with today’s text from Isaiah (25, 6-10-first reading), the concept to focus on is the universal invitation to the joyful familiarity with God. The great prophet speaks of a big gathering of all Nations. If the image is that of the banquet («a feast of fatty meats and fine wines»), then the main highlighted annotation is the universality («for all Nations»). It is a feast of freedom and peace, in which «the song of tyrants has ceased» and the victory of Love is celebrated. This great hope of Isaiah does not rest on man, but only on God. It is the strength of his Word («a perpetual Rock»: 26.4) that authorizes to hope even in times of despair (these pages of Isaiah were written in times of despair).

In today’s Gospel the Word made flesh shows that salvation comes from the acceptance of the invitation to participate to the feast of nuptial Love and to accept the truth of life. Christ draws the attention on what is a paradox: God’s people reject the Messiah and his Gospel, while others, the far away, seek him and welcome him. This paradox is (and this is how we must read it today) a severe and urgent warning to Christians: Church membership does not make us secure. It can happen even today that the one close to Christ reject him, while the one away searches for Him. It may happen today that those who were called first, with their refusal absurdly don’t want to take part in the joy. Then He offers the place to everyone else.

Today, therefore, the main message is that the God of joy qualifies himself for his continuous «calling.» God is the one who loves and calls. The repeated use of the verb leaves no room for doubt: God «calls» continually to his feast. The great thing is that he does not give up when the one «called» declines his invitation. God starts again and «calls» others, bad and good, in order to achieve the goal of having guests to the party.

The King of Kings does not yield, does not backtrack: He continues to invite, to send messengers to the crossroads of the roads. This is a wonderful expression: we believers in Christ are sent to the intersections of street, where the points of the compass converge, where the cultures intersect and peoples trespass the boundaries. The wedding invitation is for everyone at every crossroads of time and space, in every geographical and existential edge. Let’s go out of our churches with the desire to inhabit the crossroads of streets, to intersect with the matters of this world, to fight because at the crossroads of life no one may be lost.

The addition of the parable about the «dress for the wedding» serves as a warning to Christians, who may also be punished for their unworthy behavior (they are not wearing the dress for the wedding, like the first who have refused an invitation to joy). The Christian vocation does not automatically imply the final salvation and, for the believers, is not a guarantee of participation to the Kingdom.

2) Two questions with only one answer.

In the light of what we are meditating two questions arise.

The first: Why reject the invitation to participate to the feast that celebrates love as, unfortunately, did the first invited?

The second: Why join the party, fully sharing the joy of the King, without wearing the party dress?

The answer to both questions is only one: because our heart is hard and resistant to conversion.

The king of this parable takes issue with those who, although they responded positively to his call didn’t put the appropriate dress, because nothing in them has changed. They are not dressed in «linen garments that are just the works of the saints» (Rev 5.7), namely they did not change their heart with a concrete commitment to a fraternal life and to paths of justice and peace. To change clothes, to put on the dress for the wedding means to change lives, to turn the living style and to wear our dress, Christ himself.

We can’t live the wedding banquet without an impact in our way of being and in our virtuous living. As on the day of our baptism we were given a white robe, so every day we must put on Christ, welcoming the invitation of the Apostle Paul: «strip yourselves the old man and put on the new man,» Christ. If we put him on, we learn to love like him and to look at things like him.

On the day of our baptism a small white robe was put on us. This gesture was (and is still) accompanied with the words: «now you’re covered with Christ, this white robe is a sign of your new dignity.» Since then our dress for the feast that never ends is Christ. We must live our life putting Him on, making ours His gestures, His words, His eyes, His hands and His feelings, preferring those who he preferred.

The party dress is like the one worn by the Woman of the Apocalypse: clothed in the Sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of stars, wearing the dress given by God, the dress for the feast of creation that is light, the first of all the symbols of God. Under the cloak of the Virgin Mary there is a place for each of us searching the light that wins the fears and the shadows that age the heart.

The parable invites us to convert to Him who, loving us, calls us. We think of him as a King who calls us to serve him and instead He serves us and offers His house for the party. We fear Him as the God of sacrifices and He is the God that has our joy close to his heart. He gives us the bread of life and the chalice of charity, let’s go to his table with humility, purity and simplicity.

We think of Him as a far-away God, instead He is in the hall of life, in the hall of the real world, as a promise of happiness, a ladder of light placed on the heart that ascends to the sky. By accepting the invitation of God, the gift of joy, let us not fall into the error of those who have not responded to his call because, besides having lost the joy of heart, they search for it into things to own and business to do. Let’s convert to this God who, when refused, instead of lowering his expectations, rises them. “Call all» and from the many invited goes to inviting everyone, bad or good. Let them enter. Take note: first the bad guys and then the good ones … We’re not called because we are good and deserve it, but because we become good by meeting and letting us be enchanted by God’s proposal for a life beautiful, good and happy.

Let’s look at the example of the Consecrated Virgins. The consecrated persons in the world «strive to create a harmonious balance between the interior life and work in the evangelical commitment to conversion of life, obedience and stability, and in persevering dedication to meditation on God’s word (lection divine), the celebration of the Liturgy and prayer” (cf. Giovanni Paolo II,. Apostolic Post-Synodal Vita consecrata, no. 6 March 25, 1996).

Their consecration is a stable form of conversion to the Father with the desire to try his will with filial affection in a continuous conversion, where obedience is the source of freedom, chastity expresses the tension of a heart that no finite love can meet, the spirit of poverty feeds the h
unger and thirst of justice that God has promised to satisfy (cf. Mt 5, 6).

Their consecration is also turning always to the Son, with whom they tend to live an intimate communion of life, profound and joyous. Finally it is turning towards the Holy Spirit that «consecrates their heart and enlivens them with its power to the service of God and of the Church» (Rite of consecration of the Virgins)

Patristic Reading

Saint Augustin (+ 430)

Sermon 90 1 5-6, PL 38, 559 561-562.

All the faithful know the marriage of the king’s son, and his feast, and the spreading of the Lord’s Table is open to them all who will. But it is of importance to each one to see how he approaches, even when he is not forbidden to approach It. For the Holy Scriptures teach us that there are two feasts of the Lord; one to which the good and evil come, the other to which the evil come not. So then the feast, of which we have just now heard when the Gospel was being read, has both good and evil guests. All who excused themselves from this feast are evil; but not all those who entered in are good. You therefore who are the good guests at this feast do I address, who have in your minds the words, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.” All you who are such do I address, that ye look not for the good without, that ye bear with the evil within.

What is it then? I would not that ye all who approach the Lord’s Table which is in this life, should be with the many who are to be shut out, but with the few who are to be reserved. And how shall ye be able to attain to this? Take “the wedding garment.” Ye will say, “Explain this ‘wedding garment’ to us.” Without a doubt, that is the garment which none but the good have, who are to be left at the feast, reserved unto that other feast to which no bad man approaches, who are to be brought safely thither by the grace of the Lord; these have “the wedding garment.” Let us then, my Brethren, seek for those among the faithful who have something which bad men have not, and this will be “the wedding garment.” If we speak of sacraments, ye see how that these are common to the bad and good. Is it Baptism? Without

Baptism it is true no one attaineth to God; but not every one that hath Baptism attaineth to Him. I cannot therefore understand Baptism, the Sacrament itself that is, to be “the wedding garment;” for this garment I see in the good, I see in the bad. Peradventure it is the Altar, or That which is received at the Altar. But no; we see that many eat, and “eat and drink judgment to themselves.” What is it then? Is it fasting? The wicked fast also. Is it running together to the Church? The wicked run thither also. Lastly, is it miracles? Not only do the good and bad perform them, but sometimes the good perform them not.

See, among the ancient people Pharaoh’s magicians wrought miracles, the Israelites did not; among the

Israelites, Moses only and Aaron wrought them; the rest did not, but saw, and feared, and believed.

Were the magicians of Pharaoh who did miracles, better men than the people of Israel who could not do

them, and yet that people were the people of God. In the Church itself, hear the Apostle, “Are all

prophets? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues?”

What is that “wedding garment” then? This is the wedding garment: “Now the end of the

commandment,” says the Apostle, “is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith

unfeigned.” This is “the wedding garment.” Not charity of any kind whatever; for very often they who

are partakers together of an evil conscience seem to love one another. They who commit robberies

together, who love the hurtful arts of sorceries, and the stage together, who join together in the shout

of the chariot race, or the wild beast fight; these very often love one another; but in these there is no

“charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. The wedding garment” is

such charity as this. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, and have not charity, I am

become as sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal.” Tongues have come in alone, and it is said to them,

“How came ye in hither not having a wedding garment?” “Though,” said he, “I have the gift of prophecy,

and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove

mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” See, these are the miracles of men who very often have

not “the wedding garment.” “Though,” he says,” I have all these, and have not Christ, I am nothing.” Is

then “the gift of prophecy” nothing? is then “the knowledge of mysteries” nothing? It is not that these

are nothing; but” I,” if I have them, “and have not charity, am nothing. ”How many good things profit

nothing without this one good thing! If then I have not charity, though I bestow alms freely upon the

poor, though I have come to the confession of Christ’s Name even unto blood and fire, these things may

be done even through the love of glory, and so are vain. Because then they may be done even from the

love of glory, and so be vain, and not through the rich charity of a godly affection, he names them all

also in express terms, and do thou give ear to them; “though I distribute all my goods for the use of the

poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” This then

is “the wedding garment.” Question yourselves; if ye have it, ye may be without fear in the Feast of the

Lord. In one and the same man there exist two things, charity and desire. Let charity be born in thee, if it

be yet unborn, and if it be born, be it nourished, fostered, increased. But as to that desire, though in this

life it cannot be utterly extinguished; “for if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the

truth is not in us;” but in so far as desire is in us, so far we are not without sin: let charity increase, desire

decrease; that the one, that is, charity, may one day be perfected, and desire be consumed. Put on “the

wedding garment:” you I address, who as yet have it not. Ye are already within, already do ye approach

to the Feast, and I still have ye not yet the garment to do honour to the Bridegroom; “Ye are yet seeking

your own things, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” For “the wedding garment” is taken in honour

of the union, the union, that is, of the Bridegroom to the Bride. Ye know the Bridegroom; it is Christ. Ye

know the Bride; it is the Church. Pay honour to the Bride, pay honour to the Bridegroom. If ye pay due

honour to them both, ye will be their children. Therefore in this make progress. Love the Lord, and so

learn to love yourselves; that when by loving the Lord ye shall have loved yourselves, ye may securely

love your neighbour as yourselves. For when I find a man that does not love himself, how shall I commit

his neighbour whom he should love as himself to him? And who is there, you will say, who does not love

himself? Who is there? See, “He that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul.” Does he love himself, who

loves his body, and hates his soul to his own hurt, to the hurt of both his body and soul? And who loves

his own soul? He that loveth God with all his heart and with all his mind. To such an one I would at once

entrust his neighbour. “Love your neighbour as yourselves.”

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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