Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dear friends, I wish all of you a blessed and safe Thanksgiving Weekend. I was away last weekend so there was no homily for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
My grandfather was born in 1899 and he would often talk about life as a young man/husband/father: The Great Depression followed by a war… he knew hard times, when people had very little… “the world was a scary place…” he would say… And yet some of us grew up in times of conflicts in the Middle East, Market Crashes, 9/11. Now, our children will tell the story of pandemic and life under many restrictions. No doubt they’ll talk about the masks, hand sanitizer and how toilet paper was hard to get… or how they went to school on a computer and so on. No doubt they will tell the story of how things changed overnight.
And yet there is ONE thing that has never changed… not in our lifetime or any lifetime. That is the “The Kingdom of Heaven.” The Kingdom of Heaven/God is what Jesus always brings to the forefront when teaching his followers. So what is the KOH? The kingdom of heaven is a genuine invitation from God to live in the hearts of those who believe in God.
For many, the Kingdom of heaven is eternal life. It is more than that. And although we don’t really know very much about what kind of life awaits us after this one, Isaiah tells us in the First Reading that it is going to be the beautiful feast – a celebration – a reunion that, Jesus promised in his parable. That’s consistent with the image God has given us for the kingdom of heaven, over and over again in the scriptures – that of a wedding banquet – a feast- a party. I had 7 weddings booked for this year: 4 followed through and 3 moved their dates to next year, in the hope of being able to gather in larger numbers once again, in order to celebrate with everyone they know and love.
And even now, on this Thanksgiving Weekend, when we typically gather with friends and family, we probably won’t be having quite as many people gathered around a table along with the usual number of friends and family as we’re used to having-for safety reasons. At a baptism yesterday, someone asked me, “What will we do when this pandemic is over?” I replied, “we’ll have the biggest party when this is over…” Nothing brings people together faster than a celebration, a party, a wedding feast… food and drink.
But as we hear in the gospel today, that’s not always the case. Some people didn’t want to go to the king’s son’s wedding banquet. They had all kinds of excuses, I’m sure – they were busy with their business – or just caught up in their own lives. Their world had become small – they were too focused on themselves. And what happens when we become too focused on ourselves: we miss opportunities/invitations. Unfortunately, those people in the Gospel who refuse to accept the invitation might sometimes be us. Again, that kingdom of heaven Jesus invites us to be a part of – that invitation to a greater, richer and fuller life, isn’t just something in the future after death – it’s right now.
But for some reason, we might feel we’re not quite ready to be a part of it right now – that, our current life doesn’t have time for the KOH. And so we refuse the invitations and we miss the opportunities. So, God sends others into our lives to remind us that we need to have a larger vision of our world and of the kingdom of heaven.
Life is difficult, we will all have our stories to tell, no matter what time of history that we live in. And yet the message of Jesus is timeless. Over and over again, Jesus tells and shows us through his words and actions that, the kingdom of heaven/God is ultimately a disposition of the heart – a disposition of the heart that is put into action in an openness to others. It’s living with the heart of Jesus – a heart that is – gentle, loving, considerate, compassionate and merciful – a heart that always desires the good of others – a heart that holds others up in prayer. This parable is about invitations and how we respond to them. Jesus is showing us that. God, like the king in the parable, is determined to have us realize that, all people are guests at the banquet – that we’re all equal – and that our focus should be centred on others and not on the self.
God is never stingy with invitations. We get them – all the time – in the form of the people we love and who are important in our lives, but often, they also come in the people we meet who obviously need our help. Or the invitations comes when we reach out in need. In other words, the invitation is always there. All we need to do is to accept it! But once again, it all comes down to that disposition of the heart – if our heart is of love, compassion and care, we’re already at the Wedding Feast… the Kingdom of heaven… the Kingdom of God! Amen