28th Sunday (A)
The first reading from the Old Testament (Isaiah 25:6-10) is frequently chosen for funerals. So it may be one that you’d like to be chosen for your own.
The text originates from hundreds of years before the time of Christ and is an imaginative description of what the future Kingdom or Reign of God would be like. It declares that
- the enemies of God’s people would be destroyed
- the scene of this victory would be Mount Sion, the mountain overlooking Jerusalem
- a victory banquet would then take place there
- in which God himself would be the host
- not just Israelites but the peoples of all nations who believed in God would take part
- and this would be the final victory over death and mourning
It would be a banquet of great joy (symbolised by wine) and this joy would replace the distress (“the mourning veil covering all peoples”) that people in grief suffer. Thus all the traces of sadness that mark our lives would be wiped away for ever.
This hope is expressed in the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 22) which is usually chosen to accompany the Reading:
You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil:
my cup is overflowing …
Jesus speaks about this banquet in the Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14) and in quite a clever way gives a warning to fellow Jews about it.
They took it for granted that because they were Jews, the Chosen People, they had an automatic right of entry. Not so, says Jesus – through the ages God has been inviting them to join his Kingdom but they have been indifferent to the call. So now God, through Jesus, is turning to other peoples – non-Jews – and inviting them to come into his kingdom.
The sting in the tail is that the man who turned up badly dressed was denied entry. He did not bother to dress in a manner worthy of the occasion … he made no effort. For St Matthew, this was a warning to members of the new Christian Church – don’t assume that because you are members of the Church – the new Chosen People – that YOU have automatic right of entry either. You must make an effort … i.e. your way of life must be modelled on the life of Jesus, embracing his values of love, justice and mercy which are the essentials of belonging to his kingdom, and gaining entry to the banquet of eternal life.