Welcome to God’s Banqueting Table! You Are a VIP!!
Readings: 1st: Ish 25, 6-10; Ps 23, 1-6 2nd: Phil 4, 12-14.19-20; Gos: Mtt 22, 1-4
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, of the Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
“He brought me to his banqueting table, and his banner over me was love” (Song of Solomon 2:4). Today the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, The holy mother church as God’s representative exhorts, and reminds us of God’s invitation to His great banquet. This is, irrespective of our unworthiness, race, economic or political background. She reminds us that through his son Jesus Christ, God is capable of sustaining and providing our needs.
How would you feel if you wake up one morning only to receive a genuine invitation from any of the following world figures: President Obama, Pope Francis, The Queen of England, etcetera, asking you to join them for a dinner party in a couple of days time. How happier would you be if the invitation reads: “Your visa is ready for the journey, and everything you need would be made available to you?” Am sure your joy will know no bound. Today God hands out an invitation to everyone of us. The difference between this invitation and that of the world is that, while the world’s bear inscriptions like: “Strictly by invitation, only for very important personalities (VIPs). Admission fee for single, $10.00; for couple, $15; and family, $20;” God’s invitation simply reads: “You (everyone) are all invited, you are to pay nothing, and all you need shall be provided.” What a glorious Sunday today is! What good news that we have today, that God, the Creator himself is inviting each one of us personally to his banquet! While the three readings of today bear a message of restoration, hope, favour, prosperity and deliverance from God through his son Jesus Christ, the psalmist helps us immensely by giving us a clue of what our right response to this invitation ought to be.
In the first reading, Isaiah, the prophet and oracle of God brings us this good news: “On this mountain, the Lord of Host will prepare a banquet of rich food…he will remove the mourning veil covering all people…He will destroy death forever…” My dear friend the best thing to do after a reading like this is to shout Amen! The reason is pretty simple, the Lord God of Host has spoken, and so shall it be! However, we must take two things into considerations here. First, there is a location where this would be fulfilled – “On this Mountain”. If we are there already, thanks be to God, but if we are not there yet, it would be much more an act of faith to begin now to move towards this sacred mountain which is the presence of God. This is why it is an invitation, we have to be on the mountain to enjoy “the banquet of rich food and have our tears wiped away!” Second, there is no discrimination on the “Invitation Card” to this mountain and banquet. So, rather than read: “strictly by invitation”, it reads “for all people!” Amazing! In other words, each one of us is a VIP to this banquet. Hence, God invites us today as ever before without any restrictions, but we have to be on the mountain to actually partake of his blessings and favours. We can never go to this mountain and remain or return the same way we were. On our way, we may be dissatisfied, hungry and thirsty but we must surely come back fulfilled and satisfied because: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Ps 126, 5). This mountain is God’s divine presence, the place and house of prayer. When was the last time you climbed up there?
In our second reading today, Paul makes two important and very true statement. First, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” This is Paul’s source of contentment. Therefore, like him we must respond to the Lord’s invitation to be at his banquet and divine presence where all good things are made available for our contentment. He is contented with his place in Christ Jesus and so nothing bothers him. Second, “The Lord will fulfill all your needs in Christ Jesus.” Here, Paul was appreciating both God’s goodness and the generosity of the Philippians towards him. First, he reminds us as well that if we respond fully to God’s invitation as he (Paul) did, we ourselves can do all things because his shield will always be with us, his blessings, wisdom, insight and might will guide us to achieve things that ordinarily we cannot achieve because, “…It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord…(Zech 4, 6). It is however, important to take full note of these phrases that Paul employed in praying for us today. The first is: “My God will supply all your needs.” Often times we simply grab this phrase and walk away while we are ignorant of the most important aspect of the prayer which says “In or through Christ Jesus…” Paul is simply saying that God is willing and capable of meeting all our needs that are in line with Christ’s wishes for us. These include needs that are not dubious or selfish. “In or through Christ Jesus”, refers to the need of those who are in Christ, act and ask according to his mind. It refers to those who are around God’s banqueting table on his holy mountain.
In the gospel of today, Jesus the master of parables uses the parable of the wedding feast to teach us that God invites us all to his kingdom for a banquet. The first lesson it bears is the fact that out of the quest for the mundane many of us like the first invitees have rejected God’s invitation. The reason is simple! We are too busy to come to his mountain, there is no time for prayer, but we have time for the mundane. The consequences include suffering, pain, starvation, poverty, damnation, etcetera. The good news once again this Sunday is that, consequent upon the rejection of God’s special invitation by “his chosen ones ab initio”, He has now changed the Invitation Card from that which read: “Strictly by invitation and only for the chosen race” to “You (everyone) are all cordially invited!”
Why was someone thrown out? The matter of the wedding garment is instructive. The man refused to wear the garment provided for the banquet and this was a gross insult to the king. Just as the king provided wedding garments for his guests, God provides faith and salvation for mankind. He has made these available to us, in and through Christ Jesus free of charge. Refusal to have them on, means missing the banquet. This is because, on God’s mountain, there should be decorum, good disposition, self comportment and of course obedience. So, in response to this invitation, let us join the psalmist in saying: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want… you have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my enemies…surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and in the Lord’s own house shall I dwell forever and ever. Amen!”
Peace be with you all!!