The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – year A – 15 October 2023
Lectionary Readings: Is. 25:6-10a; Ps. (22)23:1-3a.3b-4.5.6; Phil. 4:12-14.19-20; Mt. 22:1-14
Theme: On feasts, food, and festal garments.
The set of readings for this Sunday revolves around the theme of G-d’s providence of abundance. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah gives us the image of the age to come where “all peoples” will experience abundant provisions from G-d, “feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy rich food and pure, choice wines.” In the Psalm, we are given again the image of G-d’s gracious providence. The psalmist recounts that “I shall not want; in verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me…” and that G-d “spreads the table before me in the sight of my foes…my cup overflows.” In the letter of Paul to the Philippians, Paul recounts his experience of both abundance and need and that in both, he affirms that the Lord provides for him and strengthens him. He then assures the Philippians that G-d “will fully supply whatever you need.”
These acts of providence by G-d are highlighted further with the elimination of certain negative elements in the texts. In Isaiah, it is said that “the veil that veils all peoples” and death will be destroyed, tears will be wiped away, and the reproach of his people will be removed. In the Psalm, the dark valley and evil are no longer to be feared. In the letter to the Philippians, humble circumstances, hunger, and need which are part of the realities of life for Paul do not debilitate him. Taking these together, it seems that the readings affirm that G-d’s provision and care will not be overshadowed nor diminished by the negative realities of life but are in fact G-d’s response to them. However, in the Gospel, we find some details that serve as counterpoint to G-d’s lavish act of gratuitous generosity.
In the Gospel we find a similar theme of feast, in this parable, a wedding feast, being prepared by G-d and providing them to his people. What immediately stands out compared to the other readings is G-d’s invitation which is not present in the previous three readings. Another is the rejection of the feast and provisions which were so readily accepted and hoped for in the first three readings. In fact, of those invited to the wedding banquet, three groups of guests rejected the invitation: first, those who were invited but refused to come; second, those who ignored the invitation, or mistreated and killed the servants sent to invite them, and third, the one who came but was not dressed fit for the occasion. This may be interpreted that while G-d’s grace of lavish provision is given to everyone, to accept it is another thing.
In Christian circles and homilies, it is easy, on the one hand, to place the Jews in the character of the guests who refused to come to the wedding feast, with those who “ignored the invitation and went away,” or worse, with those who laid hold of the servants who were sent to invite them, mistreated them and killed them. On the other hand, there is a great tendency to read in those guests who accepted the invitation and went to the wedding feast as Christians who “accepted” the Gospel of Jesus. This easily slides into supersessionism and must be avoided. Instead, it may refer to anyone who may have received the invitation to partake of G-d’s gifts, yet in one way or another has turned away from them. M. Eugene Boring states that “Matthew explicitly appropriates the term rendered “elect,” referring it not to a specific group (Jews, Christians)…The theological point of 22:11-14 is that those who find themselves unexpectedly included may not presume on grace, but are warned of the dire consequences of accepting the invitation and doing nothing except showing up. The “elect” are not the church as a replacement for Israel, but those finally accepted in the last judgment.” This alerts us that while G-d’s abundant gifts are readily and freely given to us, our response should rise to meet the gratuitous blessings for us, even more so, to meet the G-d who invites us into the banquet of G-d’s shalom.For Reflection and Discussion: 1. How have we responded to G-d’s gift of grace and blessings in our lives? 2. What were the moments when, through our action or inaction, we have rejected G-d’s invitation to partake of the feast G-d prepared for us? Bibliography: Boring, M. Eugene, “The Gospel according to Matthew,” in The New Interpreters’ Bible vol. 8 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 416-419.
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
John Paul A. Bolano, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumnus 2017