The following homily was prepared by Father James Smith for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A. Father James Smith is currently administrator at St. Isaac Jogues Church, Marlton, New Jersey.
This homily is fourth in a series of homilies with Eucharistic themes to be used in churches across the Diocese over the next year. Recently commissioned by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., the series includes the work of 13 priests and features sample homilies – in English and Spanish – along with other notes and information to assist any members of the clergy who opt to use it.
One of the most significant theological images used throughout the ages has been that of the great wedding feast in heaven. The prophet Isaiah says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines.” He is describing a time when the Lord will call all people to himself. In the Gospel, Jesus uses the image of the wedding feast as a way to show how all people are invited guests. And our celebration of the Eucharist today is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, by which we receive the richest food and choicest drink, the very Body and Blood of our Blessed Lord.
Isaiah provides an image of great hope and prosperity for people in exile. He says, “[God] will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations.” Veils conceal, and webs entangle. Perhaps the prophet is describing the sad state of affairs between Israel and the surrounding nations. Israel was called to be the sign of the future gathering of all nations, but rather than bring others to the Lord, they instead broke the covenant with God and began to worship foreign idols (CCC 762).
Consequently, Israel was conquered by Assyria and driven into exile. Whole generations of Israelites had no Temple, no sacrifice, no way to worship or offer thanksgiving to God. What the people needed was education in faith and conversion of heart (CCC 2581). Isaiah acts as a bridge from that world of chaos and sin to the peace and prosperity that comes from a right relationship with the Lord.
Having a right relationship with the Lord takes effort. Like any relationship, if we want to strengthen our ties with others we spend time with them, enjoy good conversation, and work to build a friendship that lasts. All relationships are a two-way street, and it is no different with God. If we open our heart to Christ by praying daily, practicing our faith, and receiving the sacraments, we will have a greater awareness of His presence, especially in the Most Blessed Sacrament. As it says in the Catechism, “[The Eucharist] is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present” (CCC 1374).
St. Paul says, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” This great testimony shows the value of having a relationship with the Lord. From this one statement, we realize how completely St. Paul relied on God. Whether he was living with abundance or during humble circumstances, the Lord was his strength. As the psalmist says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
Jesus shows the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with God in today’s parable of the wedding feast. The parable is an allegory for the history of Israel. The king in the parable is God the Father, and the son is Jesus. The invited guests are the people of Israel, and the servants are the prophets.
Just as the prophets were sent to invite the people back to right relationship with the Lord, the king sends his servants to invite the people to come to the wedding banquet, but the guests refused. They were more content with a life of sin rather than returning to the Lord. But, the Lord God desires that people return to him. The prophet Ezekiel reminds us, “As I live, says the Lord God, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live” (Ez. 33:11a).
God is always reaching out to his people, which is why he sent His only begotten Son. Jesus represents the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines….” The mountain is Zion, or Jerusalem, where God dwells in His Holy Temple. This is a symbol of heaven on earth. Isaiah has also prophesied: “For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Is. 2:3b). This also is fulfilled in Jesus, who is the Word made flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus came not only to bring restoration to the people of Israel, but to all people. He recounts for us in the parable how the first guests, representing the people of Israel, refused the invitation. This is a consequence of freewill, we are all free to choose or deny God. The rejection of the chosen people ultimately leads to the inclusion of all people. The king says, “Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” This is the mission of the disciple, to preach the Gospel to every creature and to bring all people to Christ.
We are all called to be guests at the great wedding feast of the Lamb. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he said, “Do this in memory of me.” From that moment on, the Church has recognized the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the image of the heavenly banquet on earth. Through this Holy Meal, we are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, who becomes truly and substantially present to us. And so, may the communion we share deepen our relationship with Christ, as we rely completely on him, and let us join with St. Paul who says, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”