Sunday, 11 October 2020 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the readings of the Scripture, we are presented with the Lord’s loving intentions for His people, how He desired for each and every one of us to enjoy the fullness of His love, the rich inheritance that will be ours and which He has promised to all of us as long as we are faithful and committed to Him. However, we often do not realise just how blessed and fortunate we are to have been promised and assured of such good fate, and we often spurned and rejected God’s generous offer of love.

In our first reading today, we listened the prophecy from the prophet Isaiah speaking to us about the vision of the coming of the time of bliss and happiness with God, as the Lord revealed to His people through Isaiah what will happen to them, His faithfulness and His care for each one of them, preparing rich food and bountiful things for them, that they will lack nothing and have no need to anything, as God will take care of everything that they need, a message that is echoed in our other Scripture passages today as well.

In our second reading, from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians, in which St. Paul showed how the Lord would strengthen and provide for His people, and that through the Lord, all of us will know true joy and satisfaction, and in sharing his own life and experiences, St. Paul highlighted how God had been with him, provided for him and protected him from harm, and gave him all that he needed, and the strength to endure the challenges he faced throughout his ministry.

And in the Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus teaching His disciples with the parable of the wedding banquet, in which we heard about a king who had invited many guests to partake and enjoy in the banquet prepared for them. Yet, those who were invited to the banquet refused to heed the invitation and ignored it, and some even treated the servants of the king harshly and killed them. This is how they treated the kindness of the Lord Who had loved them and provided well for them.

This is because the meaning of this parable is such that the king is the representation of the Lord, our God, and all those invited to the wedding banquet are all of us mankind, God’s beloved people. And it also refers to how God had called from among us, the people of Israel to be His first called and chosen ones. Yet, unfortunately, just like those guests who ignored and rejected the king’s generous offer and invitation to the banquet, the Israelites often rebelled and disobeyed God, refusing to listen to Him or follow Him.

When God sent His messengers and servants to the people to remind them and to call them to Him, the same people rejected the prophets and messengers sent to them, ignored them, and worse still, persecuted many of them and killed them. This was alluded well in the Lord’s parable of the wedding banquet. And yet the Lord still patiently sent His prophets and messengers again and again to the people even as they continued to be rebellious and rejected Him.

In the end, those who persisted in their disobedience were crushed and punished for their own faults and sins, and it was by their own choice that they had separated themselves from God’s love and rejected His Law and commandments. God has been very generous in His love for each one of them, and yet they foolishly rejected it, and chose to settle for lesser things.

In another, similar parable about the wedding banquet, the reasons given by those invited guests to refuse the invitation were that they were busy or that they had no interest in attending the banquet, likely because they had other, more interesting things in mind. As a result, they ignored and rejected the generosity of the king, symbolising God’s love and care for His people.

As the king then called many others to be the guests in his wedding banquet, thus, the Lord has called on many others to come to His kingdom, highlighting that while He had indeed called the Israelites first and made them to be His chosen race, this does not mean that His love was exclusive and other people were unworthy or rejected by God. Rather, God wants that through the Israelites, then all others would also come to know Him and embrace Him. God calls on us all, His beloved ones from all the nations to follow Him.

Then, we should take note how the those who were called and invited to the banquet came well-suited and wearing proper garment for the occasion. At that time, even among the poor people, if they came to attend a celebration or banquet, then they still did try their best to wear their best garment or clothing, and in fact, at the time, it was the responsibility of the one who made the invitation to take good care of their invited guests, even to the point of making sure that all of the guests have appropriate garment and were ready for the celebration.

The fact that one of the man who were invited did not wear a proper garment to the wedding and how he was thrown out of the wedding banquet to suffer in the outer darkness is in truth yet another allusion to how all of us are called to the Lord’s banquet, His promised inheritance and the glory He has called us to enter into. But, we need to also take note that in order for us to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and to give our best as Christians, then we need to have a profound change in our way of life.

That wedding garment or appropriate garment for the celebration symbolises the change of heart, mind and our entire life as we enter into the Lord’s kingdom, and as we respond to His call. This means that as we respond to God’s call to be Christians, as His followers, it is not enough for us to just follow Him superficially. Our Christian faith requires us to follow the Lord and commit our whole selves to Him, leaving behind our old garment of sin and wickedness, evil and disobedience, and instead, embracing a new life of faith.

That is why, we should not just wear a white garment for baptism or for our First Holy Communion as young children and keep it at that. That white garment has much deeper meaning for us, as it symbolically links us to this conversion of heart, of mind and of our whole entire being, that while once we belonged to the darkness and were subjected to the power of sin and evil, now we are no longer bound by those sinister forces, and have freed ourselves through our faith in God, our Lord and Saviour.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings therefore is a call from the Lord to each and every one of us, to be ever more faithful and to embrace His way completely, to have a profound change in mindset and in our actions and way of life. But sadly, the reality is that many of us treat our Christian faith as merely a formality, as nothing more than just fulfilling our Sunday obligations, or just merely saying some prayers and attending the Holy Mass. And even for these, we can see how many do it out of obligation rather than genuine faith. For example, how many of us actually grumbled that the Mass took too long and we could not wait for it to end so that we could continue our routines?

This is exactly the attitude of the man who came to the wedding banquet without being properly suited up. And according to the parable, did that man gain admittance to the celebration? No! In fact, he was kicked out and removed from the celebration, and forced to endure the most bitter of suffering and darkness, an indirect reference of hell and its eternal suffering that awaits all those who reject God. This means that even for us Christians, if we do not live our Christian faith as how the Lord had taught us, and remain lukewarm or even ignorant and stubborn in refusing to live up to His call, then we are no better than pagans.

How do we then live up to our Christian faith? It is by following Christ faithfully in His examples and teachings, by reaching out to our fellow brothers and sisters, loving those who are in need of help, of care and attention. And especially, at this time, when so many people are facing trials and challenges, suffering and are in need of help, as Christians, all of us are called to make good use of our blessings and talents, to reach out to those who are most suffering and in need.

That is how all of us should live our lives, to be beacons of hope and to be witnesses of God’s love by our actions, that others may also come to believe in God through us. There are many people out there who are in need of our support, help and care. Even if we just show them a glimmer of hope or make them able to smile again even just a little more, we may not realise just how much that may mean to those who are suffering and are in need of our help.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, amidst our world now suffering from the pandemic, from communal violence and disunity, from economic troubles and from so many people out there losing their means of income and employment, and those others who are sick and dying, let us all be the true bearers of our Christian faith in our society, and be committed to transform ourselves that we may indeed be worthy of God, and remember His ever generous love, by which He has called us to share in His divine banquet. May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in all of our efforts and in our faithful witnessing of His love in our world. Amen.