God is Inviting Us! 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB – Twenty-Eighth Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year A
Sermon and Christian Act In The Word
Theme: Divine Invitation versus Human Response! God is inviting us!
Point of Reflection: The liturgy of this Sunday calls for a reflection on the theme of God’s invitation to his people, an invitation to draw close to their God. It also indicates the required response to this divine call. This requires human response and action. Have I been persistently rejecting an invitation from God which calls for a decisive response? As Christians, do we recognise God’s invitation to us? How do we respond to God’s invitation which is a divine call?
First Reading: Isaiah 25:6–10
Psalm: Psalm 23:1–6
Second Reading: Philippians 4:12–14, 19–20
Gospel: Matthew 22:1–14
Sermon (Reflection): The first reading of today paints a picture of a splendid future which God has prepared for all humanity, and which will unfold after Christ’s second coming. In the vision of Isaiah, this future appears in the forms of a splendid banquet with an abundance of food and drink, where humanity will no longer experience any insufficiency or lack of sustenance. Isaiah envisions this banquet as offered to “all peoples”. No one will be excluded from participation in this renewed world, where human differences and distinctions, such as ethnicity, will be irrelevant. This is God’s invitation to all human beings in view of salvation.
The invitation and preparation of the divine feast means God’s victory over all which, in the present world, makes such harmony, peace and contentment impossible. The Lord God is called by Isaiah as the “Lord of hosts”, which describes God as the leader of the heavenly army who “destroys the shroud cast over all peoples”. Through this symbolic and military language, the prophet refers to what is commonly called “salvation”.
Salvation means the state of life which God had intended for humanity right from the beginning of creation, the life of harmony and well-being that people long for while journeying through the present world. Formulating this splendid vision, Isaiah hands his readers “an invitation card”, informing them about their future, about “the banquet” to which they are invited if they choose to adhere to their God and walk in his ways.
As Christians, we are all invited by God through Jesus Christ, the Saviour, we are all invited for salvation, but how do attain salvation?
God has sent us the invitation but how do we respond to this invitation. The Gospel passage of today illustrates tenets of human responses to the divine call.
The Gospel passage of today employs the image of a wedding banquet given by a king for his son. Many were invited to this feast, but, shockingly, they not only rejected the invitation but even killed some of the king’s servants. While rejection of a king’s invitation is an insult, killing his servants is an act of open rebellion. Undoubtedly, Jesus applied this parable to his own life when he, the king’s son, was rejected by the leaders. In the past, many of God’s servants – the OT prophets – were mistreated and even executed. Those to whom the invitation was initially issued were undoubtedly good people worthy of such honour. Yet, their own response made them unworthy of it in the end. Their indifference to the king’s invitation and preoccupation with their own affairs led them to be excluded from the feast. Subsequently, their mistreatment of the king’s servants came as the most drastic expression of their rejection of the king and his son.
In contrast to those originally invited, those eventually brought into the feast came from a variety of backgrounds, from “the streets”, being both “good and bad”. There were no preconditions for their welcome. However, they differed from the original group in that they accepted the invitation. More importantly, they must have taken the invitation seriously since, with the exception of one man, they wore appropriate clothing.
There was only one man who did not put on a proper wedding robe. Many interpreters struggle to understand who the man without a wedding robe represents. In the context of the parable, it seems most likely that this was a participant who accepted the invitation, but then did not take it seriously. He serves as the illustration of what the statement “many are called, but few are chosen” means. Jesus, the king’s son, came with an open invitation to everybody, regardless of who and where they are in life – many are called. Yet, only those who respond to this invitation adequately will be able to enter the kingdom of God which Jesus came to initiate.
In the second reading of today, Paul closes his letter to the Philippians referring broadly to what he had experienced in the course of his ministry. In fact, when writing this letter, Paul was in prison, faced with the possibility of execution. Reflecting on his life, the apostle stated that he learned to adapt himself to every condition and endure every kind of circumstances. The secret to such adaptability lay in his life-focus. He famously stated that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”. His ability to adapt, and the power to endure, did not come from himself, but from God, who called him to serve as the apostle to the Gentiles. Therefore, the matter of having or not having his physical needs met became secondary to the primary focus of his life – that of carrying on with his God-given mission.
As Christians, we need to embrace God-given mission and accept God’s divine call in our lives.
Christian Act in Word of God “Divine invitation versus human response”
A best friend of me called Nate invited me to the house just to visit and I declined the invitation because I said just visiting the house for what, I need dinner or lunch in a hotel. Unfortunately, Nate came the other day and gave me the Bible and book of Hymns, saying, I invited you home to get this but you refused. What a loss! God invites us in different forms and ways.
The liturgy of this Sunday describes the universal invitation to experience God’s salvation, which will come to its fullest expression in the form of a renewed world at the end of time, so powerfully described by Isaiah.
Paradox of an Invitation: an invitation from close friends to their wedding is treated differently from an invitation from a company to attend a promotional event. Sometimes invitations from loved ones are turned down because of other commitments. However, common to all invitations is the power that we have as invitees to either accept or decline the offer.
Now let us look at invitations from the perspective of the person who invites others. There is often great anticipation, preparation and hope because the person selects those whom he or she wants to host are the people who are special to them, and with whom they want to share a special occasion. Many invitations include a request for confirmation (RSVP) and there is joy with each arriving confirmation of attendance, or disappointment when those invited are not intending to come. However, the hardest and most painful case is when people do not even bother to respond, showing indifference and making planning and preparation all the more difficult. I have attended weddings where there were empty tables because people did not bother to respond, and their places were kept free in vain hope that they would show up. The result was a waste of food, and disappointment by the hosts who were expecting their invited guests to attend the function.
Do we respond to God’s invitation?
God sends out invitations to humanity on a daily basis in many ways, calling us to respond to different calls, whether to repentance, or to act justly and lovingly to those whom we have offended, or to take time to worship and give thanks. The ultimate call of God is to a relationship of love and companionship, that transforms us to be channels through which God can reach out to our broken world, and to many people who are seeking to know God’s love. God invites us to listen and respond in ways that transform our lives, and make us into agents of transformation in our communities. How are we responding to God’s invitation?
God invites us into a deeper relationship with him by communicating in numerous ways, including our conscience, the Bible, the Eucharist, life circumstances, nature and other people. As Christians, let us reflect on the wonder of God desiring and inviting you into a relationship with him!
Action: I will accept God’s divine invitation.
Prayer: Almighty and ever-living God, we thank you for your divine invitation for us to attain salvation. Help us Lord to recognise your divine invitation and to honestly respond to your divine call and live our lives according to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Church, we ask this through your son who died for us to attain salvation, Amen.
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