• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

"Invite to the wedding feast whomever you find."

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 130(129):3-4 – “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But with You if found forgiveness, O God of Israel.”

First Reading: Is 25:6-10a “The Lord will prepare a feast and wipe away the tears from every face.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 – “I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

Second Reading: Phil 4:12-14, 19-20 – “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.”

Alleluia: Eph 1:17-18 – “Alleluia, alleluia. May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, so that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Mt 22:1-14 – “Invite to the wedding feast whomever you find.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 34(33):11 – “The rich suffer want and go hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no blessing.”

Two thoughts came to mind as I reflected on the readings for this weekend. The first, was in light of COVID-19, “I wonder how my family (or any family for that matter) is going to celebrate Thanksgiving this year ... especially if the family dinner in the past included a large group of individuals?” The other thought was remembering back about 12 years ago when my Dad and I were planning my Ordination reception and my First Mass reception for May 16th and May 17th in 2009. Thanksgiving is a time when families get together and thank God for all of the blessings they have received throughout the year … a time to celebrate the abundance of the harvest ... and this year perhaps a time to celebrate health and well-being. A reception after someone is ordained to the priesthood, like a wedding reception, is purely a celebration … celebration for the graces given in a Sacrament … a way to congratulate … a way to wish the individuals involved best wishes as their lives enter a new dimension as a priest or as wedded man and wife.

All of the readings this weekend deal with invitation, with abundance, and with feasting. Last week in his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul asked us to think all of the things that were true and honorable, just and pure, lovely and gracious, excellent and worthy of praise. He told us that by keeping these things in our minds and in our hearts, we will become more aware of the invitations God sets before us.

At times, those invitations are quite obvious … as seen in the First Reading and in the Gospel. Both feature banquets hosted by God. Invitations have been sent out. The question is … how do or how should we respond to the invitation? And when we accept invitations for Thanksgiving dinner or to a wedding reception or another celebration, it is traditional to be dressed appropriately and also in most instances to bring a gift ... isn’t it? Shouldn’t that be our mindset when we come to God’s house for the Eucharistic banquet?

When you think about it, we all get many invitations for one thing or another each and every week. We are invited and we have the opportunity to share in a banquet each and every Sunday. It’s free for anyone who takes in the feast of the Liturgy of the Word, partakes in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and shares with those around them. Anyone who hungers can be fed and the table is never empty.

Our responsiveness depends on how sensitive we are to recognizing the movements of God and to how thankful we are for the gifts given. God’s invitations to do that are often more subtle as well. A beautiful fall day or a beautiful sunrise or sunset at the beach are just a few of the millions of invitations we are sent each and every day. Are we properly prepared for those banquets when we receive those invitations? And before answering, consider this, it is not just a question of how we are dressed on the outside, but also how we are dressed on the inside. And don’t forget ... do we bring a gift as well? It is as simple as coming prepared mentally as well as physically.

Human attempts at cooperation with the divine creative power can also be opportunities for thinking on good things and feasting on the rich and varied banquets of God. Unfortunately, some among us have become preoccupied with other things. Or maybe we’re told to do something or to behave a certain way even when God very clearly tells us “to remember the sabbath day – keep it holy. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God” (Ex 20:8-10). And so our busyness takes us elsewhere. Like those in today’s Gospel who placed their means of livelihood above the call of the king, some of us too quickly find excuses for ignoring or refusing the invitations sent from God and the chances we have to return the gifts He has given us. Our concerns for wealth, our cares and worries both genuine and needless, our careers, our desires to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities, or our other preoccupations keep us from where we should be. He has given us everything. Why do we hesitate to give back when we are invited to do so?

When people hear the word “stewardship,” especially in church during a homily, they generally think that the person giving the talk is asking for money. However, giving or stewardship before God is never limited solely to money. Rather, this quality of stewardship offers as gift all that we are and all that we have discovered ourselves to be: loved beings with gifts, abilities, talents, time, thoughts, ideals, emotions, life itself. Everything – it all belongs to God. So, what do we do? How do we give it back to God? How do we give back to God especially when God has invited to the banquet and has invited us to do so?

Stewardship is the name given to what a disciple of Christ does to respond to that question or challenge. We receive God’s gifts gratefully, we should nurture them responsibly, we should share them justly and charitably, and we should return them abundantly.

Let me end with a little illustration … Stewardship renewal is like a trip to the doctor’s office for an annual physical. It’s a pain and you have to rearrange your schedule to be available and maybe once you get there you have to wait a while to see the doctor, but it’s good for you, so you do it. The doctor sits you on a table proceeding to poke prod and stick you while asking, “Does that hurt? How about this?" If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened. The doctor has pushed too hard (but will never admit it!) or there’s something wrong and the doctor will say, “We’d better do some tests. It’s not supposed to hurt there.”

It’s the same when you hear a homily such as this. Some cry out in discomfort, criticizing both the message and the messenger. Either the preacher has pushed too hard (and we will never admit it either!) or, more likely, we’ve hit a nerve and something is wrong.

Thank you for your generosity and your willingness to hear and heed the Spirit of God. The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist ... the Mass ... is the sacramental banquet to which all of us have been invited. As we heard in the Gospel story this weekend, hopefully we have all put on the appropriate wedding garments both externally and internally as we enter into the celebration and continue with the Mass.

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