28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)
A universal invitation to the banquet of the Realm
1. Opening prayer
a) The context:
In the preceding parable, the parable on the vineyard, Jesus sums up the history of salvation. God enveloped Israel with special care and hoped that such care would have produced fruit in the shape of a life of faithfulness and justice. From time to time God sent prophets to remind the people of the fruit that God expected, but their mission always met with Israel’s rejection. Finally, God sent his own Son, but they killed him. At this point Jesus says that because Israel continued to reject the Realm, the Realm would therefore pass on to another people, that is, the pagans (21:43). This pronouncement gives us the key to the reading of our parable, which really repeats the message of the previous parable using a different image and with different nuances.
We must affirm clearly that both parables can in no way justify the idea that God rejected Israel in favour of the Church. Suffice it to read Romans 9-11 to be convinced of the contrary. Jesus says hard things, prophetic things, to draw his people to repentance and for them to accept him. Besides, the pagans too, the newly invited ones, run the risk of being thrown out if they do not wear the wedding garment.
b) The text:
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) Whom do the invited guests who refuse the invitation represent?
5. A key to the reading
for those who wish to go deeper into the text.
● The banquet of the Realm
The prophets often proclaimed the benefits of salvation and especially those of the eschatological times through the image of a banquet. The first reading of this Sunday (Is 25:6-10a) is an example. Like Jesus, Isaiah too speaks of a banquet prepared by God for all peoples. However, the people of Israel and especially the city of Jerusalem remain at the centre of God’s plan as mediators of the salvation offered by God for all. In the New Testament, however, even though there is an admission that "salvation comes from the Jews" (Jn 4:22), the only mediator of salvation is Jesus, who continues to exercise his mediation through the community of his disciples, the Church.
● The wedding garment
It is an insult to the one who has sent the invitation to arrive at the feast wearing ordinary working clothes. It is sign of not giving proper consideration for the occasion to which one is invited. This image, used in the parable on the Realm, wants to convey the idea that one cannot enter the Realm without preparation, and the only preparation is conversion. In fact, to change garment in biblical terms means to change style of life or to be converted (see for instance Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27; Eph 4:20-24).
● "Many are called but few are chosen"
This expression is a Semitism. In the absence of the comparative, biblical Hebrew uses expressions that are based on drastic opposites. Hence this expression says nothing on the numerical relationship between those called into the Church and the elect to eternal life. However, it is also true that the parable makes a distinction between the call to salvation and election and final perseverance. The generosity of the ruler is huge, but we must be serious about the demands of the Realm. The expression is a pressing appeal not to be satisfied with just formal membership among the people of God. We cannot take salvation for granted. Here Jesus follows closely the teaching of the prophets. Recall Jer 7:1-15 and Os 6:1-6.
6. Psalm 47
The Lord is Ruler of Israel and the world
Clap your hands, all peoples!
He subdued peoples under us,
The princes of the peoples
7. Closing prayer
God, Lord of the world and Ruler of all peoples, from the beginning you have prepared a banquet for your children and you wish to gather us around your table to share in your own life. We thank you for having called us into your Church through Jesus your Son. May your Spirit make us ever attentive and ready to continue to accept your invitation and may we, through the same Spirit, put on the new person, created according to God in justice and in true holiness, in the image of Christ, so that we may enter the banquet of your Realm together with a multitude of brothers and sisters. Use us, if you so wish, to continue to call others to the universal banquet of your Realm.
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