Sunday, October 12, 2014

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle A)

    Today’s Gospel reading has been interpreted in many ways throughout the ages. The most common interpretation I’ve seen goes like this: The king Jesus is talking about is of course God the Father, the son who is getting married is Jesus himself, the people who were originally invited to the wedding and refused to attend were the Jewish people in the times of Jesus who did not listened to what the prophets have said about the coming messiah. The servants who were killed were these same prophets. The town who was destroyed was again the Jewish people who suffered many calamities throughout their history for not listening to the prophets. The people who were gathered from the streets were the gentiles who were given the messiah which the Jewish people had rejected.
    The beauty of Jesus parables is that they could be viewed from many different angles by peoples from different cultures and time periods; and you can always find a new meaning for them which speak to that specific time and place.   Personally, I think that the interpretation I just gave worked pretty well for the people who were listening to Jesus 2000 years ago, but (and I say this with all respect to the Word of God) it really does not resonate well to Catholic Christians living in 21st century America.
    The question is then: how can we look at this parable of the Lord and extract a message for us today?  Well, let’s start by pointing out a few things we skipped over on our first way around. Did you notice how harsh the king in this story sounds? First he sends his soldiers to destroy the town of the people who refused to attend his wedding banquet, and then he sends his soldiers to “gather all they found the good and the bad”. After he had basically forced the people on the streets to attend his party, he takes a stroll to meet the guests and finds himself in front of a poor man who does not meet his own personal standards of fashion, after embarrassing this man, he orders his servants to tie him up and throw him into the darkness. I have to tell you my brothers and sisters this king acts more in the capricious way in which King Herod or Pontius Pilate behaved than in the way we expect a merciful God to act!
  But let’s keep digging, what about this poor man who was not dressed to the liking of the King?   The parable says that when the King confronted him “He stood in silence”. And here I need to remind you of a very important detail: The Gospels record another man who stood in silence when questioned by a king. Who am I talking about? Jesus in front of Herod the day he was crucified. This man, who the parable says was tied up and thrown into the darkness reminds us of Jesus bound and thrown out of the city of Jerusalem, abandoned by his friends and left to die alone in a cross.
    Now, by now you might be thinking “wow” the deacon is really grasping for straws today. What kind of teaching can we possibly get from looking at this parable in this way?
   Well, it is a sad reality of the culture in which we live that anyone who publicly expresses an idea which goes against what is the ‘accepted narrative”, is treated like this poor man in the parable. We have reached a point in which expressing publicly an opinion against abortion, or against the legalization of homosexual unions, or assisted suicide, or any number of other cultural topics been forced down on us by the media and even our own government means public ridicule, and the risk of legal persecution and even the loss of a job or a business.  What does our culture do with anyone who expresses in public the Christian belief on the sanctity of life, the uniqueness of the union between one man and one woman, and the dignity of the human person? What happens to the ones who do not conform to the ideas of the kings of this present world?  They are bound “hands and feet, and cast into the darkness outside, where there is wailing and grinding of teeth”.
     Today’s Gospel starts with the words “ The kingdom of heaven is like”. Of course we like to think that in heaven we will be invited to a magnificent feast like today’s first reading describes “With rich foods and choice wines”, but the reality is; as long as we find ourselves in this side of heaven, we the citizens of God’s kingdom can only expect hostility and persecution by the kings of this age. The beauty of it is that we were not created for this worldly kingdom, we are citizens of the kingdom of God.
    Jesus was murdered by the kings of his time only to receive a great reward for his faithfulness to God the Father, the resurrection. Our faithfulness to our true King, will be rewarded also by the eternal wedding feast we are all invited to attend, so rejoice and be glad! The Kingdom of heaven is waiting for us!

NOTE: The main idea for this homily was taken from a sermon by Lutheran Pastor Paul J. Nuechterlein from Delivered at Prince of Peace, Portage, MI.