POPE FRANCIS’ REFLECTION ON THE 28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A ON THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING FEAST.
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 15 October 2023
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
Today’s Gospel passage tells us about a king who prepares a wedding banquet for his son (cf. Mt 22:1-14). He is a powerful man, but he is above all a generous father, who invites others to share in his joy. In particular, he reveals the goodness of his heart in the fact that he does not compel anyone, but invites everyone, even though this way of his exposes him to the possibility of refusal. Take note: he prepares a banquet, freely offering an opportunity to meet, an opportunity for a feast. This is what God prepares for us: a banquet, to be in communion with him and among ourselves. And we, all of us, are therefore invited by God. But a wedding banquet requires time and commitment on our part: it requires a “yes”: to go, to go to the Lord’s invitation. He invites, but he leaves us free.
This is type of relationship that the Father offers us: he calls us to stay with him, leaving us the possibility to accept, or not accept, the invitation. He does not propose to us a relationship of subjection, but rather of fatherhood and sonship, which is necessarily conditioned by our free assent. God is respectful regarding freedom; very respectful. Saint Augustine uses a very beautiful expression in this regard, saying: “He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent” (Sermon CLXIX, 13). And certainly not because he does not have the capacity to do so – God is omnipotent! – but because, being love, he respects our freedom fully. God proposes: he does not impose, never.
Let us return, then, to the parable: the king – says the text – “sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come” (v.3). Here is the drama of the story: the “no” to God. But why do men refuse his invitation? Was it perhaps an unpleasant invitation? No, and yet – the Gospel says – “they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business” (v.5). They did not care, because they were thinking of their own affairs. And that king, who is a father, God, what does he do? He does not give up, he continues to invite; indeed, he extends the invitation, until he finds those who accept, among the poor. Among those who know they have little else, many come, until they fill the hall (cf. vv. 8-10).
Brothers and sisters, how many times do we fail to heed God’s invitation, because we are intent on our own affairs! Often, we struggle to have free time, but today Jesus invites us to find the time that frees: the time to dedicate to God, that lightens and heals our hearts, that increases peace, confidence and joy in us, that saves us from evil, loneliness and loss of meaning. It is worth it, because it is good to be with the Lord, to make space for him. Where? In the Mass, in listening to the Word, in prayer and also in charity, because by helping those who are weak or poor, by keeping company with those who are lonely, by listening to those who ask for attention, by consoling those who suffer, one is with the Lord, who is present in those in need. Many, however, think that these things are a “waste of time”, and so they lock themselves away in their private world; and it is sad. And this generates sadness. How many sad hearts there are! For this reason: because they are closed.
Let us ask ourselves, then: how do I respond to God’s invitations? What space do I give him in my days? Does the quality of my life depend on my affairs and my free time, or on love for the Lord and for my brethren, especially those most in need? Let us ask ourselves this.
May Mary, who with her “yes” made room for God, help us not to be deaf to his invitations.
11 October 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good afternoon!
With the narrative of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, in today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mt 22:1-14), Jesus outlines the plan that God envisaged for humanity. The king who “who gave a marriage feast for his son” (v. 2) is the image of the Father who prepared for the entire human family a wonderful celebration of love and communion around his only begotten Son. Two times the king sends his servants to call the invited guests, but they refuse; they do not want to go to the feast because they have other things to think about: fields and business. So often we too put our interests and material things ahead of the Lord who calls us – and he calls us to a feast. But the king in the parable does not want the hall to remain empty, because he wants to offer the treasures of his kingdom. So he tells his servants: “Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find” (v. 9). This is how God reacts: when he is rejected, rather than giving up, he starts over and asks that all those found at the thoroughfares be called, excluding no one. No one is excluded from the house of God.
The original term that Matthew the Evangelist uses refers to the limits of the roads, or those points at which the city streets end and the paths begin that lead to the area of the countryside, outside the residential area, where life is precarious. It is to this humanity of the thoroughfares that the king in the parable sends his servants, in the certainty of finding people willing to sit at the table. Thus the banquet hall is filled with the “excluded”, those who are “outside” those who never seemed worthy to partake in a feast, in a wedding banquet. In fact, the master, the king, tells the messengers: “Call everyone, both good and bad. Everyone!”. God even calls those who are bad. “No, I am bad; I have done many [bad things]…”. He calls you: “Come, come, come!”. And Jesus went to lunch with the publicans, who were public sinners; they were bad bad. God is not afraid of our spirits wounded by many cruelties, because he loves us; he invites us. And the Church is called to reach the daily thoroughfares, that is, the geographic and existential peripheries of humanity, those places at the margins, those situations in which those who have set up camp are found where and hopeless remnants of humanity live. It is a matter of not settling for comforts and the customary ways of evangelization and witnessing to charity, but of opening the doors of our hearts and our communities to everyone, because the Gospel is not reserved to a select few. Even those on the margins, even those who are rejected and scorned by society, are considered by God to be worthy of his love. He prepares his banquet for everyone: the just and sinners, good and bad, intelligent and uneducated.
Yesterday evening, I was able to make a phone call to an elderly Italian priest, a missionary in Brazil since youth, but always working with the excluded, with the poor. And he lives his old age in peace: he burned his life up with the poor. This is our Mother Church; this is God’s messenger who goes to the crossroads.
However, the Lord places one condition: to wear a wedding garment. Let us return to the parable. When the hall is full, the king arrives and greets the latest guests, but he sees one of them without a wedding garment, that kind of little cape that each guest would receive as a gift at the entrance. The people went as they were dressed, as they were able to be dressed; they were not wearing gala attire. But at the entrance they were give(n) a type of capelet, a gift. That man, having rejected the free gift, excluded himself: the king could do nothing but throw him out. This man accepted the invitation but then decided that it meant nothing to him: he was a self-sufficient person; he had no desire to change or to allow the Lord to change him. The wedding garment – this capelet – symbolizes the mercy that God freely gives us, namely, grace. Without grace we cannot take a step forward in Christian life. Everything is grace. It is not enough to accept the invitation to follow the Lord; one must be open to a journey of conversion, which changes the heart. The garment of mercy, which God offers us unceasingly, is the free gift of his love; it is precisely grace. And it demands to be welcomed with astonishment and joy: “Thank you, Lord, for having given me this gift”.
May Mary Most Holy help us to imitate the servants in the Gospel parable by emerging from our frameworks and from our narrow views, proclaiming to everyone that the Lord invites us to his banquet, in order to offer us his saving grace, to give us his gift.
12 October 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning,
In this Sunday’s Gospel [28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A] , Jesus speaks to us about the response given to the invitation from God — who is represented by a king — to participate in a wedding banquet (cf. Mt 22:1-14). The invitation has three characteristics: freely offered, breadth and universality. Many people were invited, but something surprising happened: none of the intended guests came to take part in the feast, saying they had other things to do; indeed, some were even indifferent, impertinent, even annoyed. God is good to us, he freely offers us his friendship, he freely offers us his joy, his salvation; but so often we do not accept his gifts, we place our practical concerns, our interests first. And when the Lord is calling to us, it so often seems to annoy us.
Some of the intended guests went so far as to abuse and kill the servants who delivered the invitation. But despite the lack of response from those called, God’s plan is never interrupted. In facing the rejection of the first invitees, He is not discouraged, He does not cancel the feast, but makes another invitation, expanding it beyond all reasonable limits, and sends his servants into the town squares and the byways to gather anyone they find. These, however, are ordinary, poor, neglected and marginalized people, good and bad alike — even bad people are invited — without distinction. And the hall is filled with “the excluded”. The Gospel, rejected by some, is unexpectedly welcomed in many other hearts.
The goodness of God has no bounds and does not discriminate against anyone. For this reason the banquet of the Lord’s gifts is universal, for everyone. Everyone is given the opportunity to respond to the invitation, to his call; no one has the right to feel privileged or to claim an exclusive right. All of this induces us to break the habit of conveniently placing ourselves at the centre, as did the High Priests and the Pharisees. One must not do this; we must open ourselves to the peripheries, also acknowledging that, at the margins too, even one who is cast aside and scorned by society is the object of God’s generosity. We are all called not to reduce the Kingdom of God to the confines of the “little church” — our “tiny little church” — but to enlarge the Church to the dimensions of the Kingdom of God. However, there is one condition: wedding attire must be worn, that is, charity toward God and neighbour must be shown.
Let us entrust the tragedies and the hopes of so many of our excluded, weak, outcast, scorned brothers and sisters, as well as of those who are persecuted for reasons of faith, to the intercession of Most Holy Mary, and let us also invoke her protection upon the work of the Synod of Bishops, meeting in the Vatican during these days.
FOR THE 28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A MASS PRAYERS AND READINGS CLICK https://catholicsstrivingforholiness.org/28th-sunday-in-ordinary-time-year-a-mass-prayers-and-readings/