14 Oct Homily Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time-Deacon Blaine Barclay
What great readings for Thanksgiving weekend. Especially n this time of toned down or cancelled feasts, they speak of hope and anticipation. I love the image of the feast, the great banquet of welcome overflowing with rich food and well-aged wines. Such abundance, such surplus, not just for an in crowd, but laid out for all peoples.
Not just a feast that fills us and then leaves us empty and the same, once the abundance has been depleted. But a feast beyond our wildest imagination, destroying, “the shroud that is cast over all people”, that “will swallow up death forever”. And my favourite line here, ‘‘then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces”.
Imagine such a world, no longer living in ‘the shadow of death’, as our Psalm says. A world where God will, “wipe away the tears from all faces”. There is a phrase that the Rabbis use to speak of this promise; ‘‘ Tikkum Olam, to mend the world”. Prophetic words like our first reading from Isaiah are not just empty promises looking forward to some kind of magical future where all our hopes and dreams will be fulfilled. But a vision that is meant to animate and empower our concrete practices in the here and now, practising radical hospitality, wiping away tears, living a hope that robs death of its victory. Yes, we are still found waiting and wanting, but with the gladness and joy of salvation thrilling our hearts.
All of this is of course background to the parable that Jesus holds out for us today. Except that he ups the ante a bit. Not just a generic feast, no matter how filled with promises, but a wedding banquet for the son of a king. The invitations go out, but the first wave of guests flatly refuse; “they would not come”, it says. A second set of invitations go out, again the guests refuse, with excuses ranging from being too busy to outright hostility. The opposition to the feast is violent.
The third set of invitations represents the good news of the gospel message. “Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find…Both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests”.
Suddenly the parable takes an unusual turn, it moves very quickly from God’s immense invitational generosity, to one guest being kicked out because they don’t have on a wedding garment. Quite the dress code. What is the significance of the wedding garment? For, “many are called, invited, but few are chosen”. We are all called to repentance, but we need to personally respond to the invitation, put on the wedding garment, the clean new clothes that God has provided. Suddenly the parable becomes a teaching about baptism. None of us are worthy to be at this banquet. Baptism is both the gift of being invited and the sign of our radical inclusion in this great feast. Let’s make sure that we show up putting on Christ, and wearing the clean wedding garment of our Baptism.