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ILLUSTRATIONSLIFE MESSAGESGOSPEL EXEGESIS

Sunday’s Illustrations

October 11, 2020

Post-World War II

At the end of World War II, the Russian head-of-state gave an elaborate banquet to honor the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The Russians arrived in their best formal wear — military dress uniforms — but their honored guest did not. Churchill arrived wearing his famous zipper coveralls that he had worn during the German bomb attack in London.

He thought it would provide a nostalgic touch the Russians would appreciate. They did not. They were humiliated and insulted that their prominent guest-of-honor had not considered their banquet worthy of his best clothes. Wearing the right clothing to a formal dinner honors the host and the occasion; neglecting to wear the right clothing is an insult.

Weddings were such an important occasion in Palestine in Christ’s days that people were expected to wear the proper clothing to show appreciation and respect for the invitation — clothing, in fact, provided by the host!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus demands, and provides, the wedding garment of righteousness from his followers.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

“When I am grown up, I should like to fill the whole house with sick people.”

The venerable servant of God, Canon Cottolengo, when but a boy of five years, was measuring with a cord one room after another. His mother, rather confused, asked him what he was trying to do.

“Dear mother,” was the reply, “I want to see how many beds can be placed in this house: when I am grown up, I should like to fill the whole house with sick people.”

A tear of emotion glistened in his mother’s eyes.

In 1832 he founded at Turin the ‘Little Asylum of Divine Providence’, and today it is world famous. It shelters 5000 men and embraces within its precincts a Church, a number of houses, terraces and courtyards. [Joseph Aloysius Krebs How to Comfort the Sick (New York: Benziger, 1898) in Kelly Library, University of Toronto; see Google, USA Archives]

Like Canon Cottolengo, there are some who respond to God’s call with passion and reach out to others to realize God’s vision for the human race. But there are many who, like the invited guests in the parable (Mt 22:5), are complacent in their response to the Lord’s invitation.

(Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

We didn’t know you had Catholic grandparents

Huey Long was a very colorful Louisiana politician who had hopes of running for the presidency in 1936. He began as an unschooled farm boy and ended up in the governor’s mansion, one of the most popular politicians in the history of the state. Long was born in the central part of Louisiana, and when he first campaigned for governor, he was given some advice about the voters in the New Orleans area.

“South Louisiana is different from the northern part of the state,” he was told. “We have a lot of Catholic voters down here.” Long nodded knowingly and went out to make his speech. It began, “When I was a boy, I’d get up at six every Sunday morning, hitch our old horse up to the buggy, and take my Catholic grandparents to Mass. I’d bring them home and then take my Baptist grandparents to Church.”

The speech was a rousing success. Afterward, a New Orleans political boss said, “Huey, you’ve been holding out on us. We didn’t know you had Catholic grandparents.” Huey looked at him slyly and said, “We didn’t even have a horse!” [Joe Claro, The Random House Book of Jokes (New York: Random House, Inc., 1990).]

Don’t let anybody mislead you. Around the banquet table of God there won’t be Baptists, or Catholics, or Methodists. There won’t even be a head table reserved for the very saintly. There will only be sinners for whom Christ died. That includes you and me. Everyone is invited.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Sunday Mass with helium balloons?

At an Evangelical church conference in Omaha, people were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt joy in their hearts. All through the service worshipers kept releasing balloons. At the end of the service it was discovered that most of them still had their balloons unreleased.

If this experiment were repeated in our Church today, how many of us would still have our balloons unreleased at the end of the Mass? Many of us think of God’s House as a place for seriousness, a place to close one’s eyes and pray, but not a place of celebration, a place of joy.

The parable of the Great Supper in today’s Gospel paints a different picture. The Christian assembly is a gathering of those who are called to the Lord’s party. In the Eucharist, we say of ourselves, “Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.” — The Lord invites us to a supper, a banquet, a feast. Can you imagine a wedding feast in which everyone sits stone-faced, cold and quiet?

(Fr. Essou M.) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

J.J & Soli Deo Gloria

Johann Sebastian Bach understood that musical talent is a grace of God. On almost all of his manuscripts Bach placed two sets of initials. At the end he wrote the letters, “S.D.G.” and, at the beginning, “J.J.” S.D.G., SOLI DEO GLORIA = to God alone be the glory. And J.J., JESU JUVET=Jesus, help me.”

That sounds like a pretty good theme for worship: “Jesus help me,” and “To God alone be the glory.” — People who understand that we are not here because we deserve to be, or because we have to be, do not have to make excuses on Sunday morning.

(Rev. James E. Rimmer) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Lame Excuses

The Toronto Star invited teachers to submit excuses they had received from their students. They received these examples: A student explaining why he was late: “I was kidnapped by aliens and interrogated for three hours.” Another student, telling why he had failed to turn in his essay: “The bus driver read it and liked it so much he kept it to show to his passengers.” Another: “I got mugged on the way to school. I offered him my money, my watch, and my penknife but all he wanted was my essay.”

Mike, a 14-year old, came up with a “watertight” excuse for arriving at school an hour late with his pants soaked to the knees: “I was just about to board the bus when I found I’d lost my ticket. Since it would take too long to walk to school, I hopped a fence onto a golf course. I headed for a creek that criss-crossed several fairways until I found a likely spot for lost balls. Retrieving three balls from their watery graves, I then made for the clubhouse where I sold the balls for bus fare! And that’s why I’m late.” Mike’s entry won.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus narrates a list of such lame excuses from the invited guests.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Who has time for God’s Banquet?

There is not enough time. Particularly is that true for today’s wives and mothers. A study by Bryn Mawr College one hundred years ago (1920), stated that women then devoted more than eighty hours a week to cleaning the house, cooking meals, and taking care of the children. Did things get better? You know the answer to that.

Another study fifty years later reported that full-time housewives spent more hours doing laundry in the 1970s than they did in the 1920s, despite all the new washing machines, dryers, detergents, and bleaches. The main change was that the family had acquired more clothing and now had even higher expectations about cleanliness and grooming.

In the second decade of the twenty-first century (2020), few women can even afford to dream of devoting full time to their families. Thus, the extraordinary demands of running a home are added to running an office or a classroom or a business.

Who has time for God’s Banquet? Many men have the same problem. A University of Michigan study found that one-third of all physicians in the United States are so busy working that they are two years behind the breakthroughs in their own field. That’s scary.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

I’m too old to make new friends

When John Kennedy was president of the United States, he invited a number of accomplished artists to a White House banquet. Among those invited was the then aging William Faulkner. He was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays. Faulkner turned down the invitation, saying, “I’m too old to make new friends.”

It is possible, you know, to turn down an invitation. It is thinkable to do the unthinkable, to excuse yourself from a fabulous opportunity.

According to today’s Gospel text, the Lord God, Creator, Ruler, Sustainer, and Heir of the universe gives an open invitation to all people to come and feast with Him at a banquet table. And?

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Happy Birthday, Agnes

A few years ago that wonderfully creative Christian sociologist, Rev. Tony Campolo, traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, for a speaking engagement. He flew all the way from Pennsylvania to Hawaii and had an awful case of jet lag. Therefore, at 3:00 AM, he was wide awake. Tony found a donut shop near his hotel. As he sat, there sipping coffee and glancing at a newspaper, the door to the diner swung open and in marched eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes. Their talk was loud and crude.

Tony was just about to make his getaway when he overheard one of the women say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m gonna be thirty-nine.”

One of her friends responded in a sarcastic tone, “So, what do you want from me, a birthday party?” “No,” she said. “I’ve never had a birthday party in my life. Too late to start now.”

Suddenly, Tony Campolo had an idea. As soon as the women had left, he said to Harry, the owner of the diner, “Do those women come in here every night?” “Yep,” he said, “about this same time. Hope they weren’t bothering you.” “No,” Tony said, “but I have an idea. The one sitting next to me is going to have a birthday tomorrow. I’ll pay the bill if we can have a little birthday party for her.”

A smile spread across Harry’s face. “That’s a good idea. Her name is Agnes.” He called his wife out of the kitchen area and told her about it. They agreed to bake the cake. The next morning by 3:00 AM Campolo had decorated the diner with crepe paper and had made a big sign reading, “Happy Birthday, Agnes.”

Word had gotten around somehow because by 3:00 AM every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. Wall-to-wall prostitutes and Tony Campolo.

At 3:30 AM on the dot, Agnes walked in and confronted the cake with burning candles and the crowd singing loudly, “Happy Birthday.” She was flabbergasted, stunned, shaken. Her eyes moistened. Then after she blew out the candles, she completely lost it and openly cried. After the party was over, Tony asked the group if he could say a prayer. He prayed for Agnes and everyone else in the group.

Then after everyone was gone, he thanked Harry for going along with the party. Harry said, “Hey, you didn’t tell me you were a preacher. What Church do you belong to?” In one of those moments when just the right words came, Tony answered, “I belong to a Church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:00 AM.”

Today’s Gospel describes a King’s party for the ordinary people.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Would you please hand me my green dress?

Television journalist Hugh Downs and his wife once attended a function in Washington. When the time came to return to New York, they discovered that their flight had been cancelled due to bad weather. Downs immediately called the front desk and was informed that they could catch a five o’clock train, which was leaving in 45 minutes. Mrs. Downs was showering, and to save time, Hugh hurriedly packed all their belongings, called the bell captain and asked that the bags be rushed right over to the station and put on the train. A bellhop came immediately and got them. Five minutes later, Mrs. Downs stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel. “Dear,” she asked, “would you please hand me my green dress?” — We’re not told how Mr. and Mrs. Downs resolved this dilemma, but it reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the king’s wedding banquet and wedding garment.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).


It’s the only thing!

When Vince Lombardi was hired as head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1958, the team was in dismal shape. A single win in season play the year before had socked the club solidly into the basement of the NFL, and sportscasters everywhere used it as the butt of loser jokes. But Lombardi picked and pulled and prodded and trained and discipled the players into become a winning team. They were NFL champions in three consecutive seasons, and took the game honors for the first two Super Bowls. Lombardi was a drill sergeant and a strategist, finding and developing the best in each of his players individually and then crafting a team community that could visualize the prize. “Winning isn’t everything,” he was often quoted as saying, “It’s the only thing!” His Packers proved him true, time and time again.– This is the problem Jesus pointedly identifies in today’s parable. God is the greatest coach, but the team is unwilling to follow.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).


God’s grace is a costly gift

A small boy was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless, he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. His father met him in the living room and said nothing. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father’s full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew up, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.” — Our sin is serious business. God’s grace is a costly gift. Jesus explains it today through the parable of the wedding garment.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

No, Jesus is in my heart

An amusing story appeared recently in the magazine Today’s Christian Woman. A woman took her four-year-old granddaughter, Amanda, to the doctor’s office with a fever. The doctor looked in her ears and said, “Who’s in there? Donald Duck?” She said, “No.” He looked in her nose and said, “Who’s in there? Mickey Mouse?” Again, she said, “No.” He put his stethoscope on her heart and said, “Who’s in there? Barney?” Amanda replied, “No, Jesus is in my heart. Barney is on my underwear.” (“What’s Up, Doc?” “Small Talk,” May/June 1996, p. 25.) — I don’t guess it matters who’s on your underwear if Jesus is in your heart. And if Jesus is in your heart, your life will be clothed in proper apparel Faith, Hope, Love, forgiveness, kindness, and all the virtues of the Christian life. And you will not be speechless at the wedding feast, for you will be properly dressed. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) “I’m too busy sending telegrams to build fires.” There is a good story from years ago about a top executive with a telegraph company who went on a trip. It was extremely cold outside when he arrived at the bus station, so he went into a local telegraph station hoping to get warmed up. When he got inside, however, it was cold. He noticed there was no fire in the fireplace. He said to the young telegraph operator, “Why don’t you build a fire in this place and warm it up?” The young man said, “Listen mister, I’m too busy sending telegrams to build fires.” The man then told this boy that he was the vice-president of the company and that he wanted him to send a telegram to the home office at once. The message was, “Fire this man immediately.” A moment later the young telegraph operator brought a load of wood into the office and began to build a fire. The executive asked, “Young man, have you sent that telegram yet?” The young telegraph operator said, “Listen mister, I’m too busy building fires to send telegrams.” –The point is that somewhere in life we have to set priorities. We have to decide what really matters and make certain that the really important things are done. Time with our family, service to our community, attention to our work, relaxation, self-improvement we could develop a list of important issues that would go on and on. Somewhere we must draw a line.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).


We have crowded out God

A mental hospital developed an unusual test to determine when their patients were ready to go back into the world. They would bring the patient being considered for release into a room with a sink. When the patient entered the room a faucet over the sink was already on, the sink was overflowing, and water was pouring onto the floor. The patient was handed a mop and asked to clean up the mess. If the patient had enough sense to turn off the faucet before starting to mop up the water, the doctors concluded he was ready to go back into society. But if he started mopping with the water still running, more treatment was needed. [Vance Havner, The Vance Havner Devotional Treasury: Daily Meditations for a Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976).] — You and I need to stop mopping long enough to look up and see if the faucet is still running. We need to go to the root of our restless, confused lives. We have crowded out God, and without God life is simply a whirlwind of meaningless activity. We need to center our lives in Him and His purpose. Then we discover that life truly is a feast. He offers an invitation to His banquet table. Will you take time to accept?

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

I am Jewish and this Star of David… 

A first-grade teacher gave her 6-year-olds an assignment. The next day they were to bring in a symbol of their religion. The next morning, she called on Isaac, who stood up and said, “I am Jewish, and this Star of David is the symbol of my religion.” The teacher then called upon Mary, who stood up saying, “I am Catholic and this Rosary is a symbol of my religion.” Next came Bobby. “I am Presbyterian,” he said, and held up a casserole dish. — Have you ever noticed how often food and drink are mentioned in the New Testament? How about banquets and weddings? Jesus even called the Church, his Bride! In our text for today, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a royal banquet.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

We looked so gorgeous we went to the Episcopal Church

Perhaps you have heard of the family that moved into the neighborhood, and the little country Church decided to reach out to the family. When they arrived at the doorstep the members of the Church were surprised to find that the family had 12 kids and were for the most part poor. They invited the family to services and said goodbye. Later that week the Church responded to their need. They delivered a package to the family and said, “We want you to know that you and your entire family are welcome at our Church anytime. We have bought you these gifts and we want you to feel comfortable and at ease in our congregation. We hope you can use these,” and they left. The family opened the package to find 14 suits of clothing, beautiful clothes for every member of the family. Sunday came and the congregation waited for the family, and they waited. The family never showed. Wondering what could have possibly happened, the members of the Church returned after lunch to the home and found the family just getting back, all dressed in their new clothes. “We don’t mean to be nosey but we would like to know what happened. We had hoped to see you this morning in Church,” the leader of the Church said. The father spoke up. He said, “Well, we got up this morning intending to come. And we sure do appreciate your invitation. But after we showered, shaved, and dressed, why we looked so gorgeous we went to the Episcopal Church.” — That’s a funny way of talking about a serious problem. Invitations are sent to many to come to Church but so few people respond, it’s frustrating. Many of you have reached out to neighbors or friends and asked them to come to Church, and you know all too well the disappointment, how few respond. Maybe that is why we find this morning’s parable so familiar.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

That’s a preacher

The writer Bill Henderson recalls meeting a man aboard a cruise ship who claimed to be an expert in guessing professions. “See that man over there,” he said. “He is a physician.” Bill checked and sure enough that was right. “How could you tell?” he asked the man. “Well,” he said, “I saw the caring lines on his forehead and could tell he was a person of great compassion.” Bill Henderson pointed to someone else and said, “What about him? What does he do?” “That’s a lawyer,” the expert said. Bill checked and sure enough, he was. The expert explained that the man had a scholarly look and was somewhat formal, indicating an attorney. Then Bill pointed to another man. The expert studied him and said, “That’s a preacher.” Bill approached the man and asked, “Are you a preacher?” “No,” said the man. “I’m just seasick; that’s the reason I look so sad.” — How strange that many Christians have a long-faced reputation! Jesus could not have been that way; if he had been, children would not have clung to him so readily. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about a royal banquet.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Shirt of a contented man

According to an old fable, there once was a King who suffered from a very painful ailment. The royal doctor advised the King that he would be cured if he found a contented man and wore his shirt night and day. Messengers were sent throughout the Kingdom in search of such a person. Several months passed and finally the messengers returned to the palace, but, with no shirt. “Couldn’t you find one contented person in all my realm?” asked the King, his disappointment audible in his voice. “Yes, Your Majesty,” the messenger replied, “we found one, just one, contented man in the Kingdom.” “Well then”, demanded the King, “where is his shirt?” Quietly, the answer came back, “He had no shirt.” — Today’s second reading tells us that Paul experienced similar contentment. So content was he in his relationship with Jesus that Paul believed that everything else paled into insignificance. If he were hungry or filled to satisfaction; if he were humiliated or raised up in honor; if he had what he needed or if he were totally bereft . . . it was of no consequence to Paul because his value system centered on one priority. That priority was the person of Jesus Christ in whom Paul found the strength for everything he was asked to do and for everything he had to suffer for the sake of the ministry he exercised in Jesus’ name.

(Sanchez Files) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

A parable applied to me, not to them

An old Baptist preacher’s story tells of a parishioner who greeted his minister at the close of the service with the same observation, Sunday after Sunday: “You really gave it to them today, Preacher!” Over time, the minister became concerned that this parishioner never seemed to consider anything in a sermon to be applicable to himself. He always seemed to exult in the fact that the preacher had given it “to them,” whoever them happened to be. At long last, there came a Sunday when a heavy snowstorm kept everybody away from Church except for the preacher and this particular parishioner. Abandoning the sermon he already had prepared for that morning, the preacher decided to focus exclusively on the sins and shortcomings he had noticed in the life of his singular captive audience. When the sermon and the service were finished, the lone parishioner came to the door and shook the preacher’s hand as he did every Sunday. The preacher waited, wondering how this parishioner would react to the blistering sermon he just had heard. “Well, Preacher,” the parishioner began, “If they’d been here today, you would really have given it to them!”

(Fr. Paul Andrew). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Do you remember the “come as you are” parties of our youth?

When I was young, right around the time when the Earth’s crust was cooling, people used to have “Come as You Are” parties. For those under 30, I’ll explain. You’d get a phone call and whatever you were wearing at that moment, was what you had to wear to a party that weekend. Folks would show up in jammies and slippers, in their gardening grubbies, in paint-spattered overalls, and everyone thought this was hilarious. Really, they did. The honor system was, well, honored, and people blushingly wore what you “caught” them in. See, that was before pajamas, slippers, torn up jeans and ragged tops became the outfit de rigueur for everything from the opera to fancy restaurants. Today you see people in the most casual of attire everywhere – at weddings, at airports, at the courthouse – places where, only a few years ago, a person “wouldn’t be caught dead” in anything but their Sunday best. (Jomi Hilton). — Today’s Gospel story tells us what happened to one such invitee for a royal banquet who ignored the dress code.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25c at a Time

Fifteen years ago, Jane Knuth, a math teacher and mom, began volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She approached the work with typical baby-boomer hard-charging determination to “fix the world” — but over the years, the experience changed her. The poor and desperate she has been able to help have deepened her own Faith and brought her to a new understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Jane Knuth has collected stories of her experiences at “St. Vinnie’s” in a delightful book Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25c at a Time. Thrift Store Saints includes some two dozen stories about the volunteers and patrons of the St. Vincent’s thrift shop. The Kalamazoo thrift store sells everything from furniture and clothing to basic household items, but also offers financial assistance, referral services — and prayerful and emotional support — to the needy and lost. Rather than viewing society’s poor as problems to be solved, Jane and her colleagues see them each in a completely different light: as saints who can lead us straight to the heart of Christ. Jane Knuth writes: “I still keep looking for the ‘deserving poor’ – the innocent ones who are blatant victims of injustice and hard luck. Do poor people deserve their daily struggle for existence? Are they immoral, stupid, and lazy? Sometimes they are, most times they aren’t.”– God’s image of His human family is realized in the kindness and charity extended by a small thrift store. In today’s Gospel, Jesus articulates the Father’s vision for humanity: a “banquet” at which all are respected and honored for who they are and the goodness they bring to the King’s Table, be it the “table” of the classroom, the clinic, the playground, the home. If we are to be truly faithful to God’s vision, the compassion of God must transform our heart’s perspective, enabling us to see beyond ethnic stereotypes, economic distinctions, class, and celebrity, to recognize every man, woman and child as made in the same image and likeness of God in which we were all created; we must be willing both to give joyfully what we have and to accept humbly what others bring to the table.

(Quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Church: The Only Thing in Town That Has Not Changed

It is instructive to drive through ritzy developments – or what David Brooks once called “sprinkler cities” – and notice that everything a person could possibly want was thought of by the real estate developers. This can be seen in lots of places, including certain sections of northern Michigan along the Lake Michigan coast, an area that has recently seen an explosion of multi-million-dollar homes on the choicest lakefront lots. As that area has seen a sharp spike in wealthy residents, lots of things expanded accordingly. Malls needed to be built or upgraded, more movie screens and golf courses were required, lush horse stables were erected, world-class restaurants opened and flourished, and even supermarkets needed to add gourmet sections so that all the ingredients for truly high-end cooking could be found. About the only thing in this town that did not change was worship space. Despite a huge influx of new residents, somehow or another the same old white clapboard country church that has been there for years continues to suffice. Curious, isn’t it? But for those busy making a life in this world, this is often the case. — So also, in this parable such folks received the king’s engraved invitation and responded, “Sounds great but I really need to keep an eye on the market today. Can I get a rain check?”

(Rev. Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations; Quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Clothing and Spiritual Change

Clothing is a common New Testament metaphor for spiritual change. Paul wrote in Romans, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Rom 13:14). And in First Corinthians, “The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:53). In Colossians, we read, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12). Finally, in First Peter we are admonished, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). Being clothed anew is a consistent New Testament expression for holiness and righteousness. The old clothes have to come off and new ones need to be put on. — Today’s Gospel text confronts us with the paradox of God’s free invitation to the banquet with no strings attached and God’s requirement of “putting on” something appropriate to that calling. The theological point is that we are warned of the dire consequences of accepting the invitation and doing nothing except showing up. (Rev. Mickey Anders, When Showing Up Isn’t Enough.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Strength for Everything

When World War II broke out, Dr. William S. Butler of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, felt duty-bound to join the Army Medical Corps. He was assigned to a post as remote as possible from his family and his native village – the steaming forests of New Guinea. Treating the wounded and victims of strange equatorial diseases was a good learning experience. But Dr. Butler and his outfit were not in a medical school. They were living right in the middle of a jungle war, constantly exposed to bombs and heavy artillery. The army physician learned there was only one real antidote to fright. “Prayer,” he wrote to his college roommate, has aided us in many a ticklish moment and fortified our courage. I have said more prayers in the past months than in all my life. It gives one the needed push when spirits lag a bit and takes the bite out of the shells and airplanes. I wonder how men get along who are without religion of any kind. Personally, I don’t believe that man exists. Please remember us in your prayers.”– “….In Him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything.” (Philippians, 4:13. Today’s second reading).

( -Father Robert F. McNamara).  Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).

July 4th celebration and the Gospel banquet

The following modern-day account of a July 4 celebration gives a glimpse into the importance of a shared meal and the abundant riches of the heavenly banquet (cf. Erika Bentsen, Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 204). It’s the savory smell of tri-tip barbecuing over mountain mahogany. It’s the sight of long tables loaded down with countless macaroni or potato salads, baked beans, casseroles, fruit and veggie platters. It’s overflowing baskets of rolls. It’s the pies and homemade ice-cream waiting on ice in the shade. It’s the boisterous din of conversation among country neighbors, almost clannish and isolated the rest of the year, coming together en masse to celebrate Independence Day. It’s that brief pivotal lull between irrigating and haying season in our valley; the last chance for neighbors to get together and socialize before the long, arduous process of gathering and storing forage against the coming winter. Most of us won’t see each other for months, if not until next year. As the dinner triangle clangs, there’s a whoop of joy and laughter. We bow our heads as one for the blessing. I steal a glance over the assembled crowd: cowboys and Indians. Retirees from California. Ranch kids. Old time families and recent imports. Dear friends and complete strangers. Rich and poor. All races and all walks of life. Each of us came to this valley in pursuit of the American dream. My heart swells with pride at our great nation. (Lectio Divina).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Sunday’s Life Messages

October 11, 2020

We need to be grateful to Christ for the invitation to the Heavenly banquet

From the moment of our Baptism, we have been invited to the Heavenly Banquet and provided with the Wedding Garment of Sanctifying Grace. These great privileges and blessings are freely offered to all, and they are given to us who accept His Gift of Faith, by a loving God. These daily Divine invitations to salvation are to be welcomed with a willingness to be daily transformed by God’s grace and according to God’s will.

But the same obstacles which prevented the Pharisees from entering the Kingdom –- pride, love of this world, its wealth, its power, and its pleasures –- can impede us, too. Hence, we must be prepared to do violence to our ordinary inclinations and to offer ourselves in love and service to Jesus and to his people. That is how we will make our Wedding Garment clean and bright every day.

Receiving these gifts of God fully also demands that, instead of remaining marginal members of our parish community, we bear visible witness to our beliefs. Let us have the consoling conviction that, while as Church members we are expected to contribute actively to its life and witnessing, the forgiveness of God and of the community is always available whenever we betray its ideals in our weak moments.

Therefore, let us pray that we may keep our Wedding Garments pure and spotless, and that we may become disciples who really practice the teachings of Jesus, rather than remaining mere Sunday Catholics. Let us pray for a deeper Faith Hope, and Love and a better spirit of responsibility to our community.


We need to make our “banquet halls” full and vibrant

What do we do to make sure that the “banquet halls” of our Churches are filled with people on Sunday mornings? Are we concerned enough to do something about it if they are not full or lively?

The first part of the parable has some strong connections with our worship services. Does not God invite us there? Aren’t we also called to be the Lord’s messengers who are instructed to go and tell the invitees (the whole world) that everything is ready?

Or do we absent ourselves because we have other “pressing” business that we think is more important? Do we remain mired in oppressive attitudes and discriminatory relationships even if our bodies are in Church? Do we ever prefer revenge to forgiveness? Do we see victimization of others and blame the victim? We must all work with God to rid ourselves of such attitudes.


We need to wear our Wedding Garment for the Eucharistic banquet

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1402-1405, 2837) teaches that the Eucharist is the foretaste of the Messianic Banquet. God Incarnate waits for us in His House of Worship, offering Himself for us on our altars and inviting us for the sumptuous Banquet of His own Body and Blood for the nourishment of our souls in the Holy Eucharist. Hence, we should never approach to receive Jesus in Holy Communion “improperly dressed”—that is, without being in the state of Sanctifying Grace given us in Baptism.

St. Paul says we eat and drink condemnation on ourselves when we do that (1 Cor 11:27-32). Just as the king provides clothes for the guests, so Jesus provides the Sacrament of Penance to cleanse our soul, but if we don’t go to confession and instead come to Communion unworthily, we’re just like the person in the parable who nonchalantly tries to show up for the banquet in his own dirty clothes rather than in the vesture given.

According to St. Gregory, men and women who come to the Wedding Feast with hatred in their hearts do not wear the acceptable garment spoken of in the parable. Men and women whose Faith and love are cold, who attend Church only for social reasons, to show off their clothes and jewelry, or to visit with acquaintances, are not dressed in a Wedding Garment pleasing to the King, Christ Jesus. Our Wedding Garment is made of our grace-assisted works of justice, charity and holiness.

Let us examine whether we have fully accepted God’s invitation to the Messianic banquet and let us remember that banqueting implies friendship and intimacy, trust and reconciliation with Christ Who loves us every day of our lives.

Sunday’s Gospel Exegesis

October 11, 2020

The context

The Parable of the Royal Banquet and the Wedding Garment is a parable about the Kingdom of God and about the people who will eventually belong to it. It is the first of three parables that challenge the legitimacy of the Jewish leadership. The parables all contrast the true Israel with the attitudes and lives of the Pharisees, demonstrating the claims of the Pharisees as false.

This parable was delivered by Jesus during his last visit to the Temple — the day we know as the Tuesday of Holy Week. The encounter was part of the Master’s last confrontation with those who saw Jesus as their enemy, before they had him arrested.

The actual parable is the disturbing story of a King Who celebrated the wedding feast of His Son. When the VIP guests who had been invited refused to come, He brought street people in to take their places. Here, Jesus combines the parable of the marriage feast with another rabbinic parable, the parable of the wedding garment.


The objective

Along with the parable of the landlord and the wicked tenants, this, too, is an allegory unfolding the whole of salvation history. The parable was intended to be a fitting reply to the accusation that Jesus was unfit to teach because He was mingling with the publicans and sinners.

It also answers the question of Jesus’ authority to teach in the Temple of Jerusalem. Jesus hints in the parable that he is befriending the sinners and preaching the Good News of God’s salvation to them because the scribes and Pharisees have rejected him and his message, while the sinners (whom they have neglected and scorned), have accepted him wholeheartedly. That is why he compares God to a King who gives orders to invite the ordinary folk from the waysides as guests for his son’s royal banquet.

Jesus also declares that the source of his authority is God his Father Who has sent His Son to preach the Good News of Salvation.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells this parable in reply to the statement made by one of his listeners: “Blessed are those who are invited to take part in the Messianic Banquet in Heaven.” This parable is based on the Jewish marriage customs of Jesus’ day and contains both a local and a universal lesson.


The Jewish wedding customs and political overtones

Since accurate timepieces were unavailable and preparation for a banquet was time-consuming, invitations to such events were sent and accepted well in advance. Once the banquet was ready, the host would send the guests a message — rather like our custom of making medical appointments in advance and receiving a reminder call a day ahead.

Attendance at the royal prince’s wedding by prominent citizens was a necessary expression of the honor they owed the king and an expression of their loyalty to the legitimate successor to his throne. Even at ordinary weddings, it was insulting to the host if someone refused to participate in the wedding feast after agreeing to do so at the first invitation. Hence, “refusal of a king’s invitation by the VIPs, without any valid reason suggested rebellion and insurrection” (The Interpreter’s Bible). That is why the king sent soldiers to suppress the rebellion.

Thus, the parable of the wedding feast has major political overtones. Another approach to the parable is that it is a prophetic allusion to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., which is interpreted to be a sign of God’s judgment against the unbelieving Jews.


Was the King rude and unkind?

In royal banquets, special wedding dress would be provided by the host and given, outside the banquet hall, to those who could not afford proper dress. In other words, when kings would invite everyone to the feast, they, knowing that many would be poor and not have proper vesture, would normally send out the royal tailors to make proper clothing for everyone who was invited or in some other way provide the fitting clothing. Hence it is s not difficult to recognize why the king would be so upset about seeing this improperly attired man who was so lazy, or stubborn, perhaps, that he deliberated refused to wear the clothing that was required and made freely available.


The code words and their direct meaning in the parable

The King in the parable is God and the King’s Son is Jesus. The marriage is symbolic of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the union of Christ’s Divine and human natures in one Person (St. Gregory).

During the nearly 2000 years between Abraham and Christ, God sent Moses and the Prophets to call His Covenant people to the great wedding feast of the Gospel. The invited guests were the Jewish people. At first, Jesus, the Christ (the Messiah), invites the people of the Old Covenant, the Jews, to join this great marriage feast which is now ready — but they fail to respond. The messengers the King had sent to invite the people were the Hebrew prophets. The second and third sets of messengers are the Christ Himself and then Christian missionaries. The burned city (v. 7) is Jerusalem.

A few VIP invitees offer flimsy and insulting excuses, implying that tending to their business is much more important than the wedding of the crown prince. The other invited guests challenge the king’s honor directly by seizing his slaves who bring the invitation, beating, and killing them. Clearly this action demands reprisal, and the King obliges. Matthew 22:7 tells how the King sent His armies against those who refused the invitation and burned their city.

Later, Christians tended to see the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. as a similar judgment of God upon the people who had rejected the invitation by Christ to the eschatological banquet.


The universal call and rejection of the Jews

The “good and bad” (v. 10), in the parable constitute the mixed memberships of the Church: the sinners and the righteous. The people in the highways and the byways stand for the sinners and the Gentiles, who never expected an invitation into the Kingdom. God’s invitation includes an offer of the correct dress for the feast, namely, the robe of Christ’s righteousness of which Paul speaks in Philippians 3:7-11.

Since this parable was directed to the chief priests and elders, Jesus contrasts their rigid observance of the Law with the open-hearted generosity expressed by the King: “Invite everyone you find.”

This is obviously more than a story about a king and a banquet. It is the story of Salvation History in which God sent prophets and Christian evangelists with Good News. The first-invited are now rejected, but strangers are accepted. In other words, the Gentiles have replaced the Jews who refused to respond to Yahweh’s call. This was the way that first-century Christians looked at the Jewish rejection of Jesus.


Lessons taught by the parable

The word “Church” is derived from the Greek word ekklesia, which means those having been called or invited. We are the ones who have responded to Jesus’ invitation. Hence, the first lesson taught by the parable is that God invites everyone, but each of us needs to give God’s invitation priority over every other good and important thing in life.

The second lesson for all of us is that it’s not enough just to show up. We must be properly “dressed up.”

  • In his Letter to the Colossians, Paul directs his converts, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. … Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:12-14).
  • In the Letter to the Ephesians, he talks about our clothes as a spiritual armor: “Therefore put on the whole armor of God: … fasten the belt of truth around your waist and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the Gospel of Peace. With all of these, take the shield of Faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:11-17).

It’s easy to get the picture: the wedding garments God wants us to don are woven with acts of Faith, Love, Hope, kindness, compassion, humility, patience, meekness, Truth, and Holiness.

There is an extended meaning or universal lesson taught by this parable. Christians are invited to the endless joy of the Heavenly Banquet. If, in our preoccupation with passing, time-tied pleasures and duties, we refuse this invitation, our greatest pain after our death will be the realization of the precious things we have forfeited. The invitation to the ordinary people from the byways tells us that God’s invitation to each one of us is purely an act of grace and not something that we deserve by our good works. The parable also warns us that God will judge those who refuse His invitation.


The Parable of the Wedding Garment

This parable is a modification of two rabbinic stories well-known to Jesus’ audience. In those days, participants in a banquet were expected to dress in clothes that were superior to those worn on ordinary days.

  • Guests who could afford it would wear white, but it was sufficient for ordinary people to wear garments as close to white as possible. It was customary for the rich hosts to provide their guests with suitable apparel.
  • For royal weddings, special outfits were given to any guests who could not afford to buy their own.

Hence, to appear in ordinary, soiled working clothes would show contempt for the occasion, and would be an unspoken refusal to join in the King’s rejoicing.

“Wearing the wedding garment” means living out the Gospel message. We are called to live the moral and ethical values embodied in Jesus’ life in earth in flesh and time, and in his teachings. In other words, the “wedding garment” in the parable refers to true discipleship rather than uncommitted membership.

The parable means that when one freely accepts Christ as one’s Lord and Savior, one must dedicate one’s life to Jesus. In other words, the Christian must be clothed in the spirit and teaching of Jesus. Grace is a gift and a grave responsibility. Hence, a Christian must be clothed in a new purity and a new holiness.

In other words, while God, through the Church, opens wide His arms to the sinner, the sinner can only accept His invitation to this relationship of mutual love by loving Him back, and so by making some effort to repent and change his life. It is not enough for one to say, “I Believe,” and then simply to continue living one’s life in one’s accustomed sinful ways. Although Jesus accepted the tax collectors and prostitutes, he demanded that they abandon their evil ways (“Go, and sin no more!”)

The permanent and universal lesson taught by the parable has nothing to do with the actual clothing we wear when we go to Church. But it has everything to do with the spirit in which we enter God’s House. It is true that Church-going must neither be a fashion parade nor an occasion of scandal for others, but the garments of the mind and of the heart we wear when we go to worship God are more important than our material clothing. The wedding garments are the garments of penitence, Faith, reverence and Love.

The parable ends on a slightly pessimistic note: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” It is a sad fact that, although everyone is called to experience the love of God, relatively few will really try to follow His teachings.

Here is Bible scholar Daniel Harrington’s comment on the wedding garment: “Mere acceptance of the invitation, however, does not guarantee participation in the banquet … Guests at a wedding banquet would be expected to appear in clean and neat clothing. When the king (God the Father) sees a man who is not dressed properly, he questions him in a cool manner (“My friend”) and has him ejected from the banquet hall. Being a tax collector or prostitute is no more a guarantee of salvation than being a Pharisee or chief priest; rather, one must receive Jesus’ invitation and act upon it so that when the banquet actually begins, one will be properly prepared to participate … The invitation to the kingdom has been offered to all kinds of people, but only a few of them act upon it in such a way as to be allowed to participate in the banquet of the kingdom.”


Fathers of the Church on the parable

St. Gregory the Dialogist, a bishop of Rome, writes that the King is God Himself, and the marriage is symbolic of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the union of Christ’s Divine and human natures in one Person. The feast is symbolic of Christ’s Church, which exists, we remember, in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on earth.

St. John Chrysostom’s commentary is similar to this interpretation. He adds that, at first, Christ invites the people of the Old Covenant, the Jews, to join this great marriage feast, which is the Church. But they fail to respond. He invites them a second time, and they are too busy with earthly concerns, an attitude about which St. John Chrysostom warns us, “when spiritual things call us, there is no press of business that has the power of necessity.” When Christ persists with His invitations to the Jews, they kill Him by having the Romans crucify Him. Similarly, they killed the Old Testament Prophets through whom God had convicted them of their wrong doing. Chrysostom comments that Christ sought to bring to conversion those who were conspiring to have Him killed before His crucifixion, and again with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Even after that, “He still urges them, striving to win them over.” However, they continue to refuse Him, and so it is then that the ordinary people of the “highways,” the Gentiles, are invited, since the wedding feast, the Church, must be filled. Chrysostom writes that when the Jews “were not willing to be present at the marriage, then He called others.” He called you and me.

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