They gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.

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Homily for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily

(Before proclaiming the gospel, I told the assembly that the Lectionary offers a longer and shorter form of the text, the shorter form including only one of what seem to be two parables joined by Matthew.  I proclaimed the shorter version but you'll see that in my homily I included the second parable as well.)

The invitation-bearing messengers are killed by the prospective guests
which incites the host to send out troops to burn down their homes!

(It’s good to keep in mind that this is a parable 
- with a lot of allegory in it!)

Then, having wasted the ungrateful murderers on his A List,
the groom’s father puts together a B List
(anyone his servants can find - bad and good alike)
so that the banquet hall will be filled with wedding guests.

And Jesus says all of this is like the kingdom of heaven!

In such a scenario, it seems that someone like me, a preacher,
might well be cast in the role of one of the king’s messengers.
So if there’s anything I hope you take away from this gospel it’s this:
Don’t kill the messenger!
But don’t forget that Jesus was speaking to messengers, to preachers:
to the “chief priests and elders of the people.”
And he was telling them in very blunt terms that the folks on the A List
(and they definitely thought of themselves as A List material)
might not be the ones who end up going to the party, to the kingdom!
You can be sure Jesus didn’t make any friends that day
with the religious establishment.

This is a parable of God’s desire 
to call and welcome as many as possible
into the kingdom of heaven: good and bad alike.
And it’s important for us to recognize: 
that’s where the first parable ends!

It’s not unlike the banquet Isaiah described for us in the first lesson:
“The Lord will provide 
a feast of rich food and choice wines for ALL peoples,
The Lord will destroy the veil of death that veils ALL peoples.
The Lord will wipe away the tears from EVERY face.
The Lord will remove FROM THE WHOLE EARTH
the reproach, the guilt and shame of his people.”
All peoples… Every face… From the whole earth…

The servants went out into the streets
and gathered ALL they found, bad and good alike…

And that’s where the first parable ends.

Does this mean, then, that it doesn’t matter if we’re good or bad?
that “no matter what” we’ll have a place in heaven? 

No, it’s not that easy.

Jesus speaks just as strongly, emphatically and often in calling us:
- to keep the commandments
- to love one another as we love ourselves
- to do what is right and just
- to lay down our lives in service of our neighbor
- and to love God above all things…

He wasn’t kidding about all that. He meant it.
But he’ll do anything to get us into that banquet hall. 
Just look at the Cross that hovers over our prayer.
He’ll do anything for us.

And if it’s Jesus’ desire to get us into the eternal banquet of heaven,
it’s also his desire, and our work, to draw as many as we know how
into this banquet hall, to this table, to this feast.

And whom should we invite? 
Who should be called in?

According to Jesus: everyone! the bad and good alike.

And looking around this place right now,
that’s just whom I see: the bad and good alike.
Beginning with the bad and the good in me.
And including the bad and the good in you.

Among us are individuals who are, and in each of us there is:
the bad and the good;
the weak and the strong;
the doubting and the convinced;
the soiled and the pure;
the foolish and the wise;
the liar and the truth-teller;
the cruel and the kind;
the demanding and the patient;
the vane and the modest;
the selfish and the generous;
the addicted and the temperate;
the waster and the conserver;
the jealous and the content;
the bully and the friend;
the proud and the humble;
the abuser and the abused;
the lustful and the chaste;
the hypocritical and the devout;
the morally careless and the ethically precise;
the unfair and the just;
the taker and the giver;
the prejudiced and the open-hearted;
the sinner and the saint…

That’s who’s here today, among us and within us,
here in this banquet hall, where the King has invited us,
(bad and good alike) to his Son's Table.

And that’s where the first parable ends.

Now let’s take a look at the second parable. 
You know it well.
In the second parable, the king comes into the banquet,
meets a guest not dressed in a wedding garment 
and throws him out of the party.
Seems unfair! 
This guy got a last minute invitation and then he’s bounced
- for not having a tux!

Watch carefully the sequence of events here.

After the bad and good alike have been seated for the party,
this guest is tossed out, not because he’s a bad person
but because he’s not appropriately dressed.
(Remember: this is a parable and it’s filled with allegory!)

Once the bad and good alike have been gathered,
once we’re in the banquet hall, as we’re gathered here today,
there are further expectations
of those (of us) who have been welcomed in.
These expectations have little to do with how we’re dressed
and much more to do with how we live:
how we live not only as those who have a ticket to get in,
but as those chosen to share in the feast.

We, bad and good alike, are chosen to be nourished and shaped
by the truth of the Word we hear proclaimed at this table
-- and we’re chosen to live by it.

We, bad and good alike,
are chosen to carefully consider and heed the wisdom of Christ
offered to us through the teachings of his Church
-- and to live by them.

We, bad and good alike, invited here in spite of our sins,
are chosen to welcome others not with judgment,
but only with the desire to share with them
the truth of God’s Word, the wisdom of our faith,
and the grace of the Supper spread for us on this altar.

As God has welcomed each of us, so are we to invite others
-- those not yet with us, and those no longer with us -- invite them
to put on the wedding garments of repentance and acceptance
and to live as those chosen in faith to share in the feast.

We need to open as many doors as possible,
in our hearts and in our parish,
and welcome the bad and the good alike
that they, too, might come to receive all that the Lord offers us
in his Word and at his Table.

As we pray every Sunday at Mass:

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles:
I leave you peace, my peace I give you.
Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church,
and grant us, in our own day,
the peace and unity of your kingdom
where you live for ever and ever. Amen.


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1 comment:

  1. Once again,I find this a blockbuster.The whole thing moves along, gathering momentum and then brings me up short with the litany of all the things we are and are not as humans. It's like a turbo charged examination of conscience and I could spend a lifetime trying to weed out all those aspects of self that diminish and cloud out the presence of joy in living.
    Then the final part of your homily when the greatest gift we have - the eucharist becomes the only possibility and solution to any of it.
    Love it !


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