Repentance and the Great Feast in Heaven
By Deacon Omar Gutierrez
Sunday, Oct. 11, is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A).Mass Readings: Isaiah 25:6-10a; Psalm 23:1-6; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14
In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Our Lord provides many analogies about the “kingdom of heaven.” In this Sunday’s reading, he likens it to a wedding feast to which a king invites many guests. Some refused to come, some simply ignored the request claiming more important work needed to be done, and some killed the servants sent to deliver the message. After avenging the death of his servants, the king invited everyone and anyone, “good and bad alike,” and they came.
However, there was one guest who was “not dressed in a wedding garment.” When personally questioned by the king about this great insult, the guest could offer no excuse or explanation. The implication here is that this faux pas was not the result of the guest’s poverty or due to the guest’s hurried acceptance of the invitation. He had no legitimate excuse, and so “he was reduced to silence.” The king was outraged and cast the guest out to that place “where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Jesus tells us today that there are various ways to fail in our response to God, who is indeed inviting us to the heavenly feast. Some of us ignore our invitation, thinking, perhaps, that we are fine the way we are. Certainly, many of us place earthly interests before our spiritual lives, claiming many times that some work needs to get done. Sadly, some do attack our shepherds, the messengers themselves, not with physical weapons but verbal ones, so as to destroy trust. However, it is we who fail when, like the guests in the Gospel, we reject Christ our King.
But then what is to be made of the guest who accepts the invitation but is not properly dressed? It was the king’s decision to invite everyone, “good and bad alike.” We know, then, it is not because this individual is a sinner. The problem was that the guest had not repented of his sin.
From the very beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel, we hear the call to repentance, a call to turn toward the Lord in recognition of our own sinfulness, rejecting our past lives. The poorly dressed guest was cast out not because he was poor or a sinner but because he stood there silently as though there were nothing for which to repent.
What’s more, lest we think that it is up to us to make ourselves worthy, the rest of the readings from this Sunday tell us that it is the Lord who will clothe us properly if only we acknowledge him. We read in Isaiah that it is God who provides not only the “feast of rich food and choice wines,” but that he will also “wipe away the tears from every face.” The Psalmist proclaims that it is the Lord who will guide “me in right paths,” spreading before us the table and anointing our “head with oil.” And St. Paul tells us that “my God will fully supply whatever you need.”
We have been invited to a great feast in heaven. May we put aside our distractions, say “Yes,” and repent of our failings, for the Lord will be the one who saves us, feeding us with “rich food and choice wines.”