28 Sunday A: Wedding Feast - Invited But ....


Starter Stories:

Post-World War II Banquet:

At the end of World War II, the Russian head-of-state gave an elaborate banquet to honor the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  The Russians arrived in their best formal wear -- military dress uniforms -- but their honored guest did not.  Churchill arrived wearing his famous zipper coveralls that he had worn during the German bomb attack in London.  He thought it would provide a nostalgic touch the Russians would appreciate.  They didn’t.  They were humiliated and insulted that their prominent guest-of-honor had not considered their banquet worthy of his best clothes.  Wearing the right clothing to a formal dinner honors the host and the occasion; neglecting to wear the right clothing is an insult.  Weddings were such an important occasion in Palestine in Christ’s days that people were expected to wear the proper clothing to show appreciation and respect for the invitation.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus demands the wedding garment of righteousness from his followers. (Fr. Tony Kadavil)

 Sunday Mass with helium balloons?
At a church conference in Omaha, people were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt joy in their hearts. All through the service worshippers kept releasing balloons. At the end of the service it was discovered that most of them still had their balloons unreleased. If this experiment were repeated in our church today, how many of us would still have our balloons unreleased at the end of the Mass? Many of us think of God's House as a place for seriousness, a place to close one's eyes and pray, but not a place of celebration, a place of joye. The parable of the Great Supper in today's Gospel paints a different picture. The Christian assembly is a gathering of those who are called to the Lord's party. In the Eucharist we say of ourselves, "Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb." The Lord invites us to a supper, a banquet, a feast. Can you imagine a wedding feast in which everyone sits stone-faced, cold and quiet? (Fr. Munachi Ezeogu, cssp) 

Gospel reading: Matthew 22:1-14
invite
Michel DeVerteuil
General Comments
This passage and last Sunday’s have much in common. They are both parables, each with its own dominant image – the vineyard last Sunday, the wedding feast today. Both belong to the last stage of Jesus’ public ministry and remembering this could be helpful for our meditation. Jesus is in Jerusalem and the atmosphere is tense. The “chief priests and elders of the people” continue  refusing to accept Jesus’ call to conversion; they will soon decide to hand him over to the Romans – a decision which leads to their own destruction. Jesus for his part does not give up. He continues to call them to repentance, although his teaching reflects his frustration at their blindness and hardness of heart.
We can identify similar crisis moments in our lives,
– times when, like the chief priests and elders, we refused to read the danger signs – looking back now, we recognise that we were on the road to ruin, in our spiritual lives, in family or community life, in personal relationships;
– times when, like Jesus, we had to continue calling people to repentance even though we were deeply frustrated at their blindness.
The passage is in three sections:
– Verses 1 to 10 – first part of the parable: the invitation to the wedding feast
– Verses 11 to 13 – second part of the parable: the wedding garment
– Verse 14 – the concluding statement.
As always we are free to take the sections separately or see them as a journey which we make.
Section 1The image of the parable is of “a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding”. This is a special kind of feast therefore, one which celebrates the establishment of harmony. The parable therefore evokes a moment when a community (or an individual) is “invited” to make an end of “separateness” and a beginning of “oneness” – within ourselves, in the world and in individual communities.
We think of groups being summoned to live together in harmony
– within families
– in individual countries, e.g. Northern Ireland, the Basque country, Sri Lanka
– between neighbouring countries, e.g. India and Pakistan, Palestine and Israel
– the different Christian Churches
– religions invited to collaborate with each other.
Within ourselves too, a time comes when we must resolve some inner conflict,
– between soul and body
– an ideal and the reality we have to live
– choosing between conflicting relationships.
Very often, as we know from experience, people prefer to remain divided. They are caught up in their own affairs (some to a “farm” and others to a “business”) and reject those who “invite them to the wedding”.
Their rejection takes different forms:
– at first they merely react  angrily;
– then they maltreat the messengers, e.g.  imprison them as the apartheid regime did to Mandela;
– they go further and put them to death, e.g. Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
We recognise that it is a moment of truth – as it was in the life  of Jesus (see above). If the invited guests continue to reject God’s invitation, they will themselves be “destroyed” and their “towns will be burnt”. This is what happened with  nationalism in Europe between the World Wars, with British rule in India and with the apartheid regime.
wedding-feastOur meditation  can focus on the “guests” who eventually come in. They are ourselves when we experience a moment of grace in the form of a “wedding”,
– a family is reunited after long years of squabbling
– an addict is finally converted
– a Church community finds new life through ecumenism or inter-religious collaboration
– warring groups finally make peace.
Surprise is essential to these as to all experiences of grace (cf C.S. Lewis “Surprised by Joy”). Spontaneously we exclaim, “Imagine me being invited to  this wedding feast!”
Section 2. This second part of the parable has two characters.
The king represents us when we insist that community (or personal) renewal must bear appropriate fruit. He is indignant at the guest’s attitude and rightly so. As with last week’s passage, what we see is an example  of “righteous anger”. We think of national leaders deeply frustrated as they see their  newly liberated countries fall into corruption, communal violence, or class warfare.
out The guest is insensitive and uncouth; he has no respect for the occasion or his fellow guests. His basic problem is that he does not feel awe at the privilege conferred on him. Identify with the terrible moment when his arrogance finally catches up with him and he who was to be part of a royal occasion is unceremoniously “thrown out into the dark”, where there is “weeping and grinding of teeth”.
Section 3 is a fitting conclusion to the parable.
It is a typically enigmatic saying of Jesus which can remain abstract but comes alive if read imaginatively.
The saying reminds us of two stages in renewal. There is a moment of “being called”. We are happy to find ourselves members of a renewed  group,
– the post-Vatican II Church with its renewed liturgy, its involvement in the modern world, its active laity;
– a religious community which took the path of true poverty and identifying with the poor;
– a racially integrated society.
A further stage arises when members become complacent and take their blessings for granted. They suddenly realise that they are “not chosen” – they prove unworthy of their “calling”.
Prayer Reflection
“The more universal a work is the more it is divine.”    …St Ignatius
Lord, the modern world has become complacent in its individualism.
Every nation looks after its own interests,
one making sure that its farms are giving the highest possible yields,
another that its investments gain more and more profits.
Even the Christian Churches have become individualistic,
each interested in getting more members than the others.
Today you remind us that this is not your plan at all.
You want humanity to be a family, like guests at a wedding party,
happy to be together, swapping stories and laughing at one another’s jokes.
Help us followers of Jesus to be your servants
bringing this good news to our contemporaries.
We know that many, especially the prosperous, will not be interested.
Sometimes we will be maltreated,
and some of us will be killed, and this will result in further violence.
But we know too that many at the crossroads are anxiously waiting to be invited,
and your wedding hall will be filled.
“Without a revolution  of the Spirit, the forces which  produced the iniquities of the old order will continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration”.Auf San Sun Kyi
Lord, the people in many countries of your world are deeply divided
– Tamils  and Inhalese in Sri Lanka
– Hindus and Muslims in the Punjab
– Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land.
– Catholics and Protestants up to recently in Northern Ireland
Send them courageous men and women who will summon them to unity,
like the king in the parable sending the servants
to invite guests to the wedding feast of his son.
The people they are sent to will often not be interested.
They will prefer to go off to their farms or to their businesses;
they will maltreat your messengers and sometimes kill them.
Lord, remind your prophets that they must not give up.
Your invitation stands, the banquet is all prepared,
oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered.
Though many have proved unworthy
there are men and women at the cross roads of the nation
who want unity and reconciliation;  the wedding hall can yet be filled with guests.
“Only those are truly great who are lifted above themselves by a faith which gives itself entirely.”     …Yves Congar
“If today’s flourishing civilizations remain selfishly wrapped up in themselves, they could easily place  their highest values in jeopardy; their continued greed will certainly call down upon them the judgement of God and the wrath of the poor, with consequences no one can foretell.”Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio
Lord,  we thank you that recent popes have been the voice of Jesus,
warning the nations of the world that if they refuse your invitation to unity
they themselves will be destroyed and their towns burnt.
Lord, how quickly we become settled in our ways in our families, communities,
including the national community .
We choose not to be involved with others and we do not let others become involved with us.
From time to time you invite us to come out of our isolation
and experience ourselves as part of a sharing community.
You send us messengers:
* someone asks us to help in the church or in the village;
* personal misfortunes or local natural events or international threats make us dependent on our neighbours;
* social problems like drugs or AIDS or unemployment begin to affect us as well.
Forgive us that we get angry with your messengers.
We are so insistent on maintaining our isolation that we maltreat and even kill them.
We look back now and realise that we were only postponing the need for change;
if we had continued that way we would have been thrown out into the dark
where there would have been gnashing and grinding of teeth.
Lord, forgive us when we take your blessings for granted.
We move around unconcerned, insensitive to the needs of others,
as if people who love us will always be there to excuse and forgive.
We are like a guest going to a wedding reception in old clothes,
not bothering to excuse himself or to thank the hosts for inviting him.
Lord, help us to see the error of our ways before it is too late
and we are bound hand and foot and thrown out into the dark.
Lord, help us always to be humble, remembering that even if we were called
it doesn’t mean we will always be chosen.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

god-nessWhenever Christians assemble to celebrate there must be a spirit of joyfulness and thanksgiving in our gathering. This is not some jolly optimism that things just might ‘look up’ or that ‘we might be lucky’ or that maybe ‘the worst won’t happen’. Our joyfulness is founded on the most basic of our beliefs: God is good, God is generous, and God is love. God is greater than our suffering, our wickedness, and he bestows his love with largesse. We experience meanness and limitation, we often act with bitterness and without thought; but God’s mercy is greater than this, and his goodness stands as a beacon at the end of all human existence. Today in the readings we are reminded of this unconditional generosity, this goodness underpinning the universe, this love that forgives us and gathers us here at the Lord’s banquet.
Homily Notes
1. The first thing to say in any homily is to acknowledge that this gospel (and this assumes that you have read the shorter version) presents us with a series of shocking images. A peeved and angry despot sets out on a spree of murder and mayhem just because he has suffered an insult. It is the behaviour we find shocking when we read of such happenings with dictators today. Why on earth is this being held up to us in the scriptures with the implication that the murderous king is to be equated with God?
There is no easy answer. The most popular solution for most of the twentieth century was to say that there is a fundamental difference between a fable (where every detail is there to be decoded) and a Jewish teacher’s parable: here is a deliberately shocking story designed to draw out just one point: everyone that can be found is invited to the wedding feast. This distinction is not, however, anything like as clearcut as many popular books declare; and, moreover, it is anything but clear that the early churches interpreted these stories in this way. We have to start with this fact (one which is awkward for many): there are parts of the early preaching, as recorded in writing, which we do not understand and which may represent positions that were later excised from the kerygma. This passage is one such case: what it means is a guess, and the task, once it has been read in the liturgy, is to reconcile it with the overall thrust of the gospel.
everybody2. So, assuming that you have explained that we simply have to guess our way here, let us use this distinction between a fable and a parable. What is ‘the bottom line’? It is this: everyone that can be found is invited to the wedding feast. Why is this such an important message? This is the question that we must focus on, not the details of the parable.
3. First, the feast is not just for a select group, an exclusive group that are ‘in favour’ with God. God loves everyone.
4. Second, the feast is not just for those who know about it: many will arrive at the feast at the End without realising that they ‘were heading in that direction’. God’s love is greater than groupings.
5. And, third, they are there at the wedding feast because God wants them there, not because we could recognise them as ‘good or bad’. God’s love is infinitely forgiving. We often think of the call to eternal life backwards. We do not think of it primarily as God sharing his love with us, but as God met­ng out retribution to those who ‘should not be let in’ such as Hitler or Stalin or Mao.
6. The banquet of heaven is within the reach of every human being, it is God’s gift, it is not bounded by our boundaries of party or group or church, and his forgiveness is greater than all we can imagine. This is a message that is just as shocking for many as the images of the despot in today’s gospel.
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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection

Anyone who has gone to the trouble of organising a party for family and friends will appreciate the work that is involved. Organising invitations, and providing food, drink and entertainment requires much thought. Considerable effort goes into the event.
no showsHowever, it is all worthwhile when a good time is enjoyed by the guests and they depart expressing their contentment and pleasure. Even if one or two guests fail to  turn up, we can shrug our shoulders and marvel at their bad manners because everyone else had a good time.
But imagine if nobody turned up! Think of the disappointment, the embarrassment and the feelings of frustration. Dark thoughts would cross our mind and, no doubt, we would delete these friends from our address book and want nothing more to do with them.
Jesus, who was an excellent teacher, used precisely this scenario to teach his listeners about the Church. The parable of the marriage feast is about the fate that awaits those who either reject his Church or who refuse to use the Church properly to live in God’s grace and to prepare for judgement.
The king in the parable represents God, who invites certain chosen people to the wedding feast. Not only did those invited make excuses and fail to attend but, when they were given a second chance and the king sent other servants to repeat the invitation, those servants were physically assaulted and even murdered. So it is with the Church. People often reject the Church and persecute the followers of Christ.
The parable teaches that a terrible fate awaits those who act against Christ’s Church because, as the king in the parable was angry and sent his armies to destroy the murderers and burn their cities, so will God judge those who refuse to attend the wedding feast that is the Church. All the nourishment required for our souls, all the graces to be received through the sacraments and other spiritual practices, are represented in the parable by the carefully prepared dinner that the king offers freely.
out outIn the parable, the king eventually managed to fill the venue with people ‘bad and good alike’ (Mt 22:10) and the marriage feast was held. But then the king saw a man who was not wearing a wedding garment and, when he asked for an explanation, the man remained silent. The king’s anger erupted again and the man was bound hands and feet and thrown ‘out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth’ (Mt 22:13).
This appears to be an exaggerated response, out of all proportion to the crime of failing to implement the wedding dress code. But that is not the crime. Jesus used the popular customs and mores of his day to teach eternal truths. This time, he was teaching that not only those who obstinately remain outside his Church will suffer eternal loss of salvation but also those who do not avail of the life in Christ that is offered through the Church.
That is the meaning of the ‘wedding garment’ (Mt 22:12). We know the importance of dressing appropriately for various events and it is embarrassing if we either under dress or over dress for an occasion. The key event for which the Church was founded is to prepare us for our judgement before God. If we appear before the throne of God, having failed to live our Christian vocation, we will face the wrath of the King in the next world. The words of the king in the parable are worthy of frequent reflection: ‘For many are called, but few chosen’ (Mt 22:14).
For meditation
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. (Mt 22:1)
chosen
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Donal Neary SJ
Look to the heart

There is a big problem with this story. In a good story Jesus al­ways raises a question. It seems a bit unfair to be thrown out, having been brought in at the last minute, because you had no garment. However, the garment means you want to be there and to take on the values of the feast. The garment is the desire of the heart to be a follower in name and deed.
God invites all, but expects us to come with a good heart. Of­ten we see people around mass who seem not to respect it. They may not come often, but God looks to the desires of the heart. Maybe the non-churchy parents who want their child baptised know deep down that their love for the child brings them to bap­tism. Is that not a good reason? Or maybe the young people who come to mass because they have exams coming up and need all the help they can get?
 While Jesus is totally the inviting one, he wants us to remain with him. The heart that follows is the heart that wants to love, and that desire is the wedding garment.
The man knew in his heart that he should not be there. Jesus sees into the heart. What we look for is the sincerity in what brings us to God and that can be different for everybody. Religion is firstly of the heart, and then practice. We never know what’s in the heart of our people who sometimes come in faith. You never can tell! Let God be the judge of that!

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From The Connections:

THE WORD:
Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast is another illustration of Israel’s rejection of God’s promise.  The invitation is therefore extended to everyone – Gentiles, foreigners and those who do not know God -- to come to the Lord’s table.  (Matthew’s readers would see the “destruction of those murderers” and the “burning of their city” as references to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.)
Jesus tells a second parable within the parable of the wedding feast.  The wedding garment is the conversion of heart and mind required for entry into the kingdom.  The Christian who does not wear this mantle of repentance and good deeds will suffer the same fate as those who reject outright the invitation to the wedding.  As the apostle Paul writes (Romans 13: 14), we must “put on” the garment of Christ.

HOMILY POINTS:

God has invited each of us to his Son’s wedding feast: the fullness of God’s life in the resurrection.  The only obstacle is our inability to hear his invitation amid the noisy activity that consumes our time and attention.
God invites all his children to his table – distinctions drawn according to economic class or influence, discrimination by race or origin, reservations due to mental or physical ability disappear at the banquet of the Father.  In order to be able to take our own place at God’s table, we must first realize God’s vision for the human family at our own tables.
The parables of the king’s wedding feast and wedding garment confront us with the reality that we cannot be Christian without conversion; we cannot come to the feast of heaven while remaining indifferent to the empty plates before so many of the world's children; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we cannot love those we can see. 
The wedding garment of today’s Gospel is the garment of good works we make for ourselves for the Lord’s banquet: the garment sewn of repentance, joyful expectation and humble service to others.


‘Thrift Store Saints’
Fifteen years ago, Jane Knuth, a math teacher and mom, began volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  She approached the work with typical baby-boomer hard-charging determination to “fix the world” — but over the years, the experience changed her.  The poor and desperate she has been able to help have deepened her own faith and brought her to a new understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Jane Knuth has collected stories of her experiences at “St. Vinnie’s” in a delightful book Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25c at a Time.  Thrift Store Saints includes some two dozen stories about the volunteers and patrons of the St. Vincent’s thrift shop.  The Kalamazoo thrift store sells everything from furniture and clothing to basic household items, but also offers financial assistance, referral services — and prayerful and emotional support — to the needy and lost.
Rather than viewing society’s poor as problems to be solved, Jane and her colleagues see them each in a completely different light: as saints who can lead us straight to the heart of Christ.  Jane Knuth writes:
“From all appearances, it looks as if we are running a thrift store at St. Vincent de Paul.  At our meetings we frequently get into discussions about how to better run the store.  Should we raise our prices?  Give away less?  Not accept so many donations?  Lock our dumpster?  Move to a better retail location?  All these issues would come up with any resale shop.  Eventually, it occurs to us that our purpose is not to run the most profitable, shrewd, efficient, riff-raff-free store in town.  Our purpose is to help the poor and to change our way of thinking and being.  It only looks as though we run a store.  The store is just our cover . . .
“I still keep looking for the ‘deserving poor’ – the innocent ones who are blatant victims of injustice and hard luck.  I want to help them and no one else.  From what I can see, apart from children, most poor people’s situations seem to stem from a mixture of uncontrollable circumstances, luck, and their own decisions.  Same as my situation.  Do I deserve everything I have?  Am I somehow more moral, smarter, or a harder worker than poor people?  Sometimes I am, most times I’m not.  Do poor people deserve their daily struggle for existence?  Are they immoral, stupid, and lazy?  Sometimes they are, most times they aren’t.”

God’s image of his human family is realized in the kindness and charity extended by a small thrift store.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus articulates the Father’s vision for humanity: a “banquet” at which all are respected and honored for who they are and the goodness they bring to the king’s table, be it the “table” of the classroom, the clinic, the playground, the home.  If we are to be truly faithful to God’s vision, the compassion of God must transform our heart’s perspective, enabling us to see beyond ethnic stereotypes, economic distinctions, class and celebrity, to recognize every man, woman and child as made in the same image and likeness of God in which we were all created; we must be willing both to give joyfully what we have and to accept humbly what others bring to the table.  God’s “banquet” is only realized when we embrace a radically new vision of humanity, a perspective that ignores suspicions, doubts and stereotypes and, instead, recognizes everyone, first, as a child of God, worthy of respect, love and compassion.  
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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

Fr. Jude Botelho:

In the first reading, Isaiah proclaims the goodness of God, who is preparing a banquet for all his people on the holy mountain. The banquet symbolizes God's closeness to us and the celebration of the final victory over sin, suffering and death. This feast is not exclusively for the Israelites but for all people. God desires to invite all to his kingdom with no one excluded. The Lord comes to bring consolation to those who are sorrowing and to give new sight to those blinded by the disasters that afflict them. The call of the Christian is the call to hope in the Lord, who is concerned about everything that affects us, and will lead us to new joy that comes from being with the Lord.

Wiping away tears
The venerable servant of God, Canon Cotolengo, when but a boy of five years, was measuring with a cord one room after another. His mother rather confused, asked him what he was trying to do. “Dear mother,” was the reply, “I want to see how many beds can be placed in this house; when I grow up I should like to fill the whole house with sick people.” A tear of emotion glistened in his mother’s eyes. In 1832 he founded in Turin the ‘Little Asylum of Divine Providence’. And today it is world famous. It shelters 5000 men and embraces within its precincts a church, a number of houses, terraces and courtyards. – God invites us to get caught up with his desire for humanity and work with him to wipe away tears from cheeks and to take away people’s shame. Like Canon Cotolengo, there are some who respond to God’s call with passion and reach out to others to realize God’s vision for the human race.
Vima Dasan in ‘His Word Lives’

The Gospel parable tells us that a king desires to celebrate the marriage feast for his son and so he sends out his messengers to summon all guests. Those invited refuse to come, thus insulting the king. The king is still patient with the guests and sends a second reminder but again those invited scorn the invitation and maltreat and kill the servants, which incenses the king who destroys them. Since the banquet is all set, the king now sends his messengers to invite anyone whom they can find. And the servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the banquet hall was filled with guests. What is the point the Evangelist is trying to make through this parable? Firstly salvation is centered in Christ; it is always God who takes the initiative for salvation. We cannot do anything to start the process, faith is always a gift and it is through our faith that we are invited, as it were, to a royal banquet. If a VIP invited us to a very special occasion would we reject the invitation? Would we not think we were privileged ones to be invited? Yet, when it is Jesus who invites us, we are indifferent to His call, and busy ourselves with other matters which we believe are more important. Secondly, the parable reminds us of the patience of God, who does not give up on us. The servants in the parable stand not only for the prophets but also for the apostles and special messengers whom God sends into our lives to remind us of his call. God can call us through His word, through prayer, he can call us through the preaching, teaching and witnessing. He can call us through the least expected of people. What is important is to heed his call when it comes and not to make excuses. He sent his only son and even when he was rejected and killed God did not abandon His people. God’s response to man’s infidelity and ingratitude is unconditional love!

How can I live without my excuses?
A middle-aged woman went to a distant monastery for her first weekend retreat in many years. When she arrived at the guest house, one of the monks approached her and surprised her with a brusque question. "Why not?" "That was the first thing he said," she relates. "He had never seen me before. I hadn't even said a word. “Why not?” he questioned. I knew he had me. After all he was the retreat master." I brought up excuses: "It was a long trip.... I'm tired... the kids... the people I work with... not enough time... I guess it's my temperament." The retreat master took a long sword off the wall and gave it to the woman. "Here, with this sword, you can cut through any barriers you have." She took it and slipped away without saying a word. Back in her room, alone, she sat down and kept looking at the sword. She knew that what he said was true. But the next day she returned the sword. She muttered, "How can I live without my excuses?”                                                                                      Brian Cavanaugh in ‘Tales of a Magic Monastery’


Tea time with God

At the turn of the century, a man wrote in his diary the story of a young newsboy he met in the street near his home in London. It was well known in the neighbourhood that the boy was an orphan. His father had abandoned the family when the boy was a baby, and his mother had died shortly after he began selling newspapers. All attempts to place the boy either in an institution or foster home were thwarted, because the boy refused each offer of help and ran away when attempts were made to confine him. "I can take care o' myself just fine, thank ye!" he would say kindly to the old ladies, who questioned whether he had his porridge that day. Indeed he never looked hungry and his persistence in selling papers, load after load, gave the impression he spoke the truth. But the streets are a lonely place for a child to live, and the man's diary reflects a conversation he had with the child about his living arrangements. As he stopped to buy his paper one day, the man bought a little extra time by fishing around in his pocket for coins and asked the boy where he lived. He replied that he lived in an impoverished district of the city near the river bank. This was something of a surprise to the man. With more interest, he inquired, "Well, who lives with you?" The boy answered. "Only Jim. Jim is crippled and can't do no work. He's my pal." Now clearly astounded that the child appeared to be supporting not only himself but also someone who was unable to contribute any income, the man noted, "You'd be better off without Jim, wouldn't you? The answer came with not a little scorn - a sermon in a nutshell: "No sir, I couldn't spare Jim. I wouldn't have nobody to go home to. And say, Mister, I wouldn't want to live and work with nobody to divide with, would you?”
Alice Grey in ‘Stories from a Kindred Heart’  

Excuses, excuses, excuses!
Once there was a tailor who mended the clothes of everybody in town, yet he himself went about with his coat in tatters. And to the embarrassment of everybody he appeared like that in Church on Sundays. One Sunday a friend said to him, “It’s a disgrace that you, a respectable tailor, should go around in a tattered coat. Shame on you for coming here dressed like that.” “But what can I do? I’m a poor man and I have to work all week to make a living.” the tailor replied. “Where am I going to find the time to mend my own clothes?” “Look,” said the friend. “Here’s £20. Think of me as one of your customers. I’m paying you to mend your own coat. “I’ll agree to that,” cried the tailor as he took the money. However, when he came to Church the following Sunday the friend noticed that once again he was dressed in his old tattered coat. Extremely annoyed, the friend said to him, “Now there is no excuse for this kind of behaviour. Didn’t I give you £20 last Sunday to mend your coat? Yet I can see that you never even touched it.” “What can I do?” said the tailor apologetically. “When I went home last Sunday and examined my coat, I realized that I’d be losing money on the job if I did it for £20!” A man like that will always find excuses!
Anonymous

Film –‘Chocolat’
This movie takes place in a small town in France in 1959. The town has always expressed their community life using the word “tranquilite” (tranquility). You knew what was expected of you, you knew what your place was. And if you happened to forget, someone would remind you. They trusted the wisdom of ages past, lived with the values of tradition, family, and morality. Into this town comes Vianne. She does not go to church, has a daughter without a father present, and has the gall to open a Chocolaterie right in the middle of Lent! As she opens and conducts her business, it becomes clear that she is anything but traditional. Vianne does nothing by the book. She does nothing out of obligation, but everything out of love. It is her encouragement that brings Josephine out of her abusive marriage. It is her encouragement that brings Armande together with her grandson. It is her encouragement that brings a widow of 30-some-years out of mourning and into a new relationship. The town is transformed by her Chocolaterie and her grace! –Going by our rules can bring death, living by love gives life!
Carla Thompson Powell

Banqueting at the Borders
Walking through Delhi’s Ridges, I see joggers buying bananas to feed monkeys, and in Ahmedabad, pujaris feeding chapatis to cows while starving children beg for their share. Today, Niger’s children eat weeds, Haiti’s youth eat mud cakes, while Mali’s mothers only drink water to stay alive. Today’s readings must awaken our consciences that we might conscientize the unawakened. O that today we can truly say, “take, eat, this is my body!”
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

Accepting His Invitation –Doing His Will
A woman was touring a piano factory. First the guide showed her a large warehouse where workers were shaping wood. Next, the guide took the woman into a room where workers were building frames. Then, the guide took the visitor into a room where people, wearing face masks, were carefully sanding and varnishing the piano frames. Next, the woman visited a room where a few skilled technicians were assembling metal strings and ivory keys into the frames. Finally, the guide led the woman into a showroom, where a musician was seated at a piano playing incredibly beautiful music. Afterwards the woman thought to herself: The difference between what I saw in the warehouse room and the showroom is the difference between doing my thing and letting God do what he wants to me. The difference between what I am now and what God intends that I become.
Mark Link in ‘Challenge’


****
Fr. Tony Kadavil

1) Post-World War II Banquet:

At the end of World War II, the Russian head-of-state gave an elaborate banquet to honor the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  The Russians arrived in their best formal wear -- military dress uniforms -- but their honored guest did not.  Churchill arrived wearing his famous zipper coveralls that he had worn during the German bomb attack in London.  He thought it would provide a nostalgic touch the Russians would appreciate.  They didn’t.  They were humiliated and insulted that their prominent guest-of-honor had not considered their banquet worthy of his best clothes.  Wearing the right clothing to a formal dinner honors the host and the occasion; neglecting to wear the right clothing is an insult.  Weddings were such an important occasion in Palestine in Christ’s days that people were expected to wear the proper clothing to show appreciation and respect for the invitation.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus demands the wedding garment of righteousness from his followers. 

2)  Sunday Mass with helium balloons?:
 
At a church conference in Omaha, people were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt joy in their hearts. All through the service worshippers kept releasing balloons. At the end of the service it was discovered that most of them still had their balloons unreleased. If this experiment were repeated in our church today, how many of us would still have our balloons unreleased at the end of the Mass? Many of us think of God's House as a place for seriousness, a place to close one's eyes and pray, but not a place of celebration, a place of joye. The parable of the Great Supper in today's Gospel paints a different picture. The Christian assembly is a gathering of those who are called to the Lord's party. In the Eucharist we say of ourselves, "Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb." The Lord invites us to a supper, a banquet, a feast. Can you imagine a wedding feast in which everyone sits stone-faced, cold and quiet? (Fr. Essou M.) 

3) The Rich man and the Beggar:

The French have a story about a millionaire, who spent his days counting his gold coins.  Beside his palace was a poor cobbler who spent his days singing as he repaired people's shoes.  The joyful singing irritated the rich man.  One day he decided to give some gold coins to the cobbler.  At first the cobbler was overjoyed, and he took the coins and hid them.  But then he worried about the coin and was constantly going back to make sure the coins were still there.  Then he worried in case someone had seen him, and might steal the coins.  Consequently, he ceased to sing.  Then one day he realized that he had ceased to sing because of the gold coins.  He took them back to the rich man and said, "Take back your coins and give me back my songs."  Inordinate attachment to riches can take away our freedom and joy.

4) A Small Boy and Dinner:

A small boy was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless, he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. His father met him in the living room and said nothing. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father's full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy's plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew up, he said, "All my life I've known what God is like by what my father did that night." Our sin is serious business. God's grace is a costly gift. Jesus explains it today through the parable of the wedding garment. 

5) “A few years ago that wonderfully creative Christian sociologist,

Rev. Tony Campolo, traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, for a speaking engagement. He flew all the way from Pennsylvania to Hawaii and had an awful case of jet lag. Therefore, at 3:00 AM, he was wide awake. Tony found a donut shop near his hotel. As he sat there sipping coffee and glancing at a newspaper, the door to the diner swung open and in marched eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes. Their talk was loud and crude. Tony was just about to make his getaway when he overheard one of the women say, "Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm gonna be thirty-nine." One of her friends responded in a sarcastic tone, "So, what do you want from me, a birthday party?" "No," she said. "I've never had a birthday party in my life. Too late to start now." Suddenly, Tony Campolo had an idea. As soon as the women had left, he said to Harry, the owner of the diner, "Do those women come in here every night?" "Yep," he said, "about this same time. Hope they weren't bothering you." "No," Tony said, "but I have an idea. The one sitting next to me is going to have a birthday tomorrow. I'll pay the bill if we can have a little birthday party for her." A smile spread across Harry's face. "That's a good idea. Her name is Agnes." He called his wife out of the kitchen area and told her about it. They agreed to bake the cake. The next morning by 3:00 AM Campolo had decorated the diner with crepe paper and had made a big sign reading, "Happy Birthday, Agnes." Word had gotten around somehow because by 3:00 AM every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. Wall to wall prostitutes and Tony Campolo. At 3:30 AM on the dot, Agnes walked in and confronted the cake with burning candles and the crowd singing loudly, "Happy Birthday." She was flabbergasted, stunned, shaken. Her eyes moistened. Then after she blew out the candles she completely lost it and openly cried. After the party was over, Tony asked the group if he could say a prayer. He prayed for Agnes and everyone else in the group. Then after everyone was gone, he thanked Harry for going along with the party. Harry said, "Hey, you didn't tell me you were a preacher. What church do you belong to?" In one of those moments when just the right words came, Tony answered, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:00 AM." Today’s Gospel describes a King’s party for the ordinary people.

21-Additional anecdotes:

1) Sunday Mass with helium balloons?
 
At an Evangelical church conference in Omaha, people were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt joy in their hearts. All through the service worshippers kept releasing balloons. At the end of the service it was discovered that most of them still had their balloons unreleased. If this experiment were repeated in our church today, how many of us would still have our balloons unreleased at the end of the Mass? Many of us think of God's House as a place for seriousness, a place to close one's eyes and pray, but not a place of celebration, a place of joy. The parable of the Great Supper in today's Gospel paints a different picture. The Christian assembly is a gathering of those who are called to the Lord's party. In the Eucharist we say of ourselves, "Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb." The Lord invites us to a supper, a banquet, a feast. Can you imagine a wedding feast in which everyone sits stone-faced, cold and quiet? (Fr. Essou M.)

2) J.J & Soli Deo Gloria:
 
Johann Sebastian Bach understood that musical talent is a grace of God. On almost all of his manuscripts Bach placed two sets of initials. At the end he wrote the letters, "S.D.G." and, at the beginning, "J.J." S.D.G., SOLI DEO GLORIA = to God alone be the glory. And J.J., JESU JUVET=Jesus, help me." (3) That sounds like a pretty good theme for worship: "Jesus help me," and "To God alone be the glory." People who understand that we are not here because we deserve to be or because we have to be do not have to make excuses on Sunday morning (Rev. James E. Rimmer)

3) Lame Excuses:
 
The Toronto Star invited teachers to submit excuses they had received from their students. They received these examples:  A student explaining why he was late: "I was kidnapped by aliens and interrogated for three hours." Another student, telling why he had failed to turn in his essay: "The bus driver read it and liked it so much he kept it to show to his passengers."  Another: "I got mugged on the way to school. I offered him my money, my watch, and my penknife but all he wanted was my essay."  Mike, a 14-year old, came up with a "watertight" excuse for arriving at school an hour late with his pants soaked to the knees: "I was just about to board the bus when I found I'd lost my ticket. Since it would take too long to walk to school, I hopped a fence onto a golf course. I headed for a creek that criss-crossed several fairways until I found a likely spot for lost balls. Retrieving three balls from their watery graves, I then made for the clubhouse where I sold the balls for bus fare! And that's why I'm late."  Mike's entry won. In today’s Gospel Jesus narrates a list of such lame excuses from the invited guests.

4) Who has time for God's banquet?
 
There is not enough time. Particularly is that true for today's wives and mothers. A study by Bryn Mawr College fifty years ago stated that women then devoted more than eighty hours a week to cleaning the house, cooking meals, and taking care of the children. Did things get better? You know the answer to that. Another study twenty-five years later reported that full-time housewives spent more hours doing laundry in the 1970s than they did in the 1920s, despite all the new washing machines, dryers, detergents, and bleaches. The main change was that the family had acquired more clothing and now had even higher expectations about cleanliness and grooming. In the 1990's few women can even afford to dream of devoting full time to their families. Thus, the extraordinary demands of running a home are added to running an office or a classroom or a business. Who has time for God's banquet? Many men have the same problem. A University of Michigan study found that one-third of all physicians in the United States are so busy working that they are two years behind the breakthroughs in their own field. That's scary.

5) "I'm too old to make new friends."
 
When John Kennedy was president of the United States, he invited a number of accomplished artists to a White House banquet. Among those invited was the then aging William Faulkner. He was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays.  Faulkner turned down the invitation, saying, "I'm too old to make new friends." It is possible, you know, to turn down an invitation. It is thinkable to do the unthinkable, to excuse yourself from a fabulous opportunity. According to today’s Gospel text, the Lord God, Creator, Ruler, Sustainer, and Heir of the universe gives an open invitation to all people to come and feast with Him at a banquet table.

6) "Happy Birthday, Agnes.
 
A few years ago that wonderfully creative Christian sociologist, Rev. Tony Campolo, traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, for a speaking engagement. He flew all the way from Pennsylvania to Hawaii and had an awful case of jet lag. Therefore, at 3:00 AM, he was wide awake. Tony found a donut shop near his hotel. As he sat there sipping coffee and glancing at a newspaper, the door to the diner swung open and in marched eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes. Their talk was loud and crude. Tony was just about to make his getaway when he overheard one of the women say, "Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm gonna be thirty-nine." One of her friends responded in a sarcastic tone, "So, what do you want from me, a birthday party?" "No," she said. "I've never had a birthday party in my life. Too late to start now." Suddenly, Tony Campolo had an idea. As soon as the women had left, he said to Harry, the owner of the diner, "Do those women come in here every night?" "Yep," he said, "about this same time. Hope they weren't bothering you." "No," Tony said, "but I have an idea. The one sitting next to me is going to have a birthday tomorrow. I'll pay the bill if we can have a little birthday party for her." A smile spread across Harry's face. "That's a good idea. Her name is Agnes." He called his wife out of the kitchen area and told her about it. They agreed to bake the cake. The next morning by 3:00 AM Campolo had decorated the diner with crepe paper and had made a big sign reading, "Happy Birthday, Agnes." Word had gotten around somehow because by 3:00 AM every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. Wall-to-wall prostitutes and Tony Campolo. At 3:30 AM on the dot, Agnes walked in and confronted the cake with burning candles and the crowd singing loudly, "Happy Birthday." She was flabbergasted, stunned, shaken. Her eyes moistened. Then after she blew out the candles she completely lost it and openly cried. After the party was over, Tony asked the group if he could say a prayer. He prayed for Agnes and everyone else in the group. Then after everyone was gone, he thanked Harry for going along with the party. Harry said, "Hey, you didn't tell me you were a preacher. What Church do you belong to?" In one of those moments when just the right words came, Tony answered, "I belong to a Church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:00 AM." Today’s Gospel describes a King’s party for the ordinary people.

7) "Would you please hand me my green dress?"
 
Television journalist Hugh Downs and his wife once attended a function in Washington. When the time came to return to New York, they discovered that their flight had been cancelled due to bad weather. Downs immediately called the front desk and was informed that they could catch a five o'clock train, which was leaving in 45 minutes. Mrs. Downs was showering, and to save time, Hugh hurriedly packed all their belongings, called the bell captain and asked that the bags be rushed right over to the station and put on the train. A bellhop came immediately and got them. Five minutes later, Mrs. Downs stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel. "Dear," she asked, "would you please hand me my green dress?" We're not told how the Downs resolved this dilemma, but it reminds me of Jesus' parable of the king’s wedding banquet and wedding garment.

8) "It's the only thing!"
 
When Vince Lombardi was hired as head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1958, the team was in dismal shape. A single win in season play the year before had socked the club solidly into the basement of the NFL, and sportscasters everywhere used it as the butt of loser jokes. But Lombardi picked and pulled and prodded and trained and discipled the players into become a winning team. They were NFL champions in three consecutive seasons, and took the game honors for the first two Super Bowls.             Lombardi was a drill sergeant and a strategist, finding and developing the best in each of his players individually and then crafting a team community that could visualize the prize. "Winning isn't everything," he was often quoted as saying, "It's the only thing!" His Packers proved him true, time and time again. This is the problem Jesus pointedly identifies in today’s parable. God is the greatest coach, but the team is unwilling to follow.

9) God's grace is a costly gift.
 
A small boy was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless, he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. His father met him in the living room and said nothing.  At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father's full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy's plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew up, he said, "All my life I've known what God is like by what my father did that night." Our sin is serious business. God's grace is a costly gift. Jesus explains it today through the parable of the wedding garment.

10) "No, Jesus is in my heart.”
 
An amusing story appeared recently in the magazine Today's Christian Woman. A woman took her four-year-old granddaughter, Amanda, to the doctor's office with a fever. The doctor looked in her ears and said, "Who's in there? Donald Duck?" She said, "No." He looked in her nose and said, "Who's in there? Mickey Mouse?" Again she said, "No." He put his stethoscope on her heart and said, "Who's in there? Barney?" Amanda replied, "No, Jesus is in my heart. Barney is on my underwear." ("What's Up, Doc?" "Small Talk," May/June 1996, p. 25.) I don't guess it matters who's on your underwear if Jesus is in your heart. And if Jesus is in your heart, your life will be clothed in proper apparel faith, hope, love, forgiveness, tolerance and all the virtues of the Christian life. And you will not be speechless at the wedding feast, for you will be properly dressed.

11) “I'm too busy sending telegrams to build fires.
 
There is a good story from years ago about a top executive with a telegraph company who went on a trip. It was extremely cold outside when he arrived at the bus station, so he went into a local telegraph station hoping to get warmed up. When he got inside, however, it was cold. He noticed there was no fire in the fireplace. He said to the young telegraph operator, "Why don't you build a fire in this place and warm it up?” The young man said, "Listen mister, I'm too busy sending telegrams to build fires." The man then told this boy that he was the vice-president of the company and that he wanted him to send a telegram to the home office at once. The message was, "Fire this man immediately." A moment later the young telegraph operator brought a load of wood into the office and began to build a fire. The executive asked, "Young man, have you sent that telegram yet?" The young telegraph operator said, "Listen mister, I'm too busy building fires to send telegrams." The point is that somewhere in life we have to set priorities. We have to decide what really matters and make certain that the really important things are done. Time with our family, service to our community, attention to our work, relaxation, self-improvement we could develop a list of important issues that would go on and on. Somewhere we must draw a line.

12) We have crowded out God. 
 
A mental hospital developed an unusual test to determine when their patients were ready to go back into the world. They would bring the patient being considered for release into a room with a sink. When the patient entered the room a faucet over the sink was already on, the sink was overflowing, and water was pouring onto the floor. The patient was handed a mop and asked to clean up the mess. If the patient had enough sense to turn off the faucet before starting to mop up the water, the doctors concluded he was ready to go back into society. But if he started mopping with the water still running, more treatment was needed. [Vance Havner, The Vance Havner Devotional Treasury: Daily Meditations for a Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976).] You and I need to stop mopping long enough to look up and see if the faucet is still running. We need to go to the root of our restless, confused lives. We have crowded out God, and without God life is simply a whirlwind of meaningless activity. We need to center our lives in Him and His purpose. Then we discover that life truly is a feast. He offers an invitation to His banquet table. Will you take time to accept?

13) "I am Jewish and this Star of David… .” 
 
A first grade teacher gave her 6-year-olds an assignment. The next day they were to bring in a symbol of their religion. The next morning, she called on Isaac, who stood up and said, "I am Jewish and this Star of David is the symbol of my religion." The teacher then called upon Mary, who stood up saying, "I am Catholic and this Rosary is a symbol of my religion." Next came Bobby. "I am Presbyterian," he said, and held up a casserole dish. Have you ever noticed how often food and drink are mentioned in the New Testament? How about banquets and weddings? Jesus even called the Church, his Bride! In our text for today, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a royal banquet.

14) “We looked so gorgeous we went to the Episcopal Church.”
 
Perhaps you have heard of the family that moved into the neighborhood and the little country Church decided to reach out to the family. When they arrived at the doorstep the members of the Church were surprised to find that the family had 12 kids and were for the most part poor. They invited the family to services and said goodbye. Later that week the Church responded to their need. They delivered a package to the family and said, "We want you to know that you and your entire family are welcome at our Church anytime. We have bought you these gifts and we want you to feel comfortable and at ease in our congregation. We hope you can use these," and they left. The family opened the package to find 14 suits of clothing, beautiful clothes for every member of the family. Sunday came and the congregation waited for the family, and they waited. The family never showed. Wondering what could have possibly happened, after lunch the members of the Church returned to the home and found the family just getting back, all dressed in their new clothes. "We don't mean to be nosey but we would like to know what happened. We had hoped to see you this morning in Church," the leader of the church said. The father spoke up. He said, "Well, we got up this morning intending to come. And we sure do appreciate your invitation. But after we showered, shaved, and dressed, why we looked so gorgeous we went to the Episcopal Church." That's a funny way of talking about a serious problem. Invitations are sent to many to come to Church but so few people respond, it’s frustrating. Many of you have reached out to neighbors or friends and asked them to come to Church, and you know all too well the disappointment, how few respond. Maybe that is why we find this morning's parable so familiar.

15)  "That's a preacher."
 
The writer Bill Henderson recalls meeting a man aboard a cruise ship who claimed to be an expert in guessing professions. "See that man over there," he said. "He is a physician." Bill checked and sure enough that was right. "How could you tell?" he asked the man. "Well," he said, "I saw the caring lines on his forehead and could tell he was a person of great compassion." Bill Henderson pointed to someone else and said, "What about him? What does he do?" "That's a lawyer," the expert said. Bill checked and sure enough, he was. The expert explained that the man had a scholarly look and was somewhat formal, indicating an attorney. Then Bill pointed to another man. The expert studied him and said, "That's a preacher." Bill approached the man and asked, "Are you a preacher?" "No," said the man. "I'm just seasick; that's the reason I look so sad." How strange that many Christians have a long-faced reputation! Jesus could not have been that way; if he had been, children would not have clung to him so readily. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about a royal banquet.

16) Shirt of a contented man:
 
According to an old fable, there once was a King who suffered from a very painful ailment.  The royal doctor advised the King that he would be cured if he found a contented man and wore his shirt night and day. Messengers were sent throughout the Kingdom in search of such a person. Several months passed and finally the messengers returned to the palace, but, with no shirt.  “Couldn’t you find one contented person in all my realm?” asked the King, his disappointment audible in his voice.  “Yes, Your Majesty,” the messenger replied, “we found one, just one, contented man in the Kingdom.” “Well then”, demanded the King, “where is his shirt?”  Quietly, the answer came back, “He had no shirt.”  Today’s second reading tells us that Paul experienced similar contentment.  So content was he in his relationship with Jesus that Paul believed that everything else paled into insignificance.

17) A parable applied to me, not to them:
 
An old Baptist preacher’s story tells of a parishioner who greeted his minister at the close of the service with the same observation, Sunday after Sunday: “You really gave it to them today, Preacher!” Over time, the minister became concerned that this parishioner never seemed to consider anything in a sermon to be applicable to himself. He always seemed to exult in the fact that the preacher had given it “to them,” whoever them happened to be. At long last, there came a Sunday when a heavy snowstorm kept everybody away from Church except for the preacher and this particular parishioner. Abandoning the sermon he already had prepared for that morning, the preacher decided to focus exclusively on the sins and shortcomings he had noticed in the life of his singular captive audience. When the sermon and the service were finished, the lone parishioner came to the door and shook the preacher’s hand as he did every Sunday. The preacher waited, wondering how this parishioner would react to the blistering sermon he just had heard. “Well, Preacher,”the parishioner began, “If they’d been here today, you would really have given it to them!” (Fr. Paul Andrew).

18) Do you remember the "come as you are" parties of our youth?
 
When I was young, right around the time when the Earth’s crust was cooling, people used to have “Come as You Are” parties. For those under 30, I’ll explain. You’d get a phone call and whatever you were wearing at that moment, was what you had to wear to a party that weekend. Folks would show up in jammies and slippers, in their gardening grubbies, in paint-spattered overalls, and everyone thought this was hilarious. Really, they did. The honor system was, well, honored, and people blushingly wore what you “caught” them in. See, that was before pajamas, slippers, torn up jeans and ragged tops became the outfit de rigueur for everything from the opera to fancy restaurants. Today you see people in the most casual of attire everywhere – at weddings, at airports, at the courthouse – places where, only a few years ago, a person “wouldn’t be caught dead” in anything but their Sunday best. (Jomi Hilton). Today’s Gospel story tells us what happened to one such invitee for a royal banquet who ignored the dress code. L/17

19) “Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25c at a Time.”
 
Fifteen years ago, Jane Knuth, a math teacher and mom, began volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  She approached the work with typical baby-boomer hard-charging determination to “fix the world” — but over the years, the experience changed her.  The poor and desperate she has been able to help have deepened her own faith and brought her to a new understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Jane Knuth has collected stories of her experiences at “St. Vinnie’s” in a delightful book Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25c at a Time.  Thrift Store Saints includes some two dozen stories about the volunteers and patrons of the St. Vincent’s thrift shop.  The Kalamazoo thrift store sells everything from furniture and clothing to basic household items, but also offers financial assistance, referral services — and prayerful and emotional support — to the needy and lost. Rather than viewing society’s poor as problems to be solved, Jane and her colleagues see them each in a completely different light: as saints who can lead us straight to the heart of Christ.  Jane Knuth writes:  “I still keep looking for the ‘deserving poor’ – the innocent ones who are blatant victims of injustice and hard luck.  Do poor people deserve their daily struggle for existence?  Are they immoral, stupid, and lazy?  Sometimes they are, most times they aren’t.” God’s image of his human family is realized in the kindness and charity extended by a small thrift store.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus articulates the Father’s vision for humanity: a “banquet” at which all are respected and honored for who they are and the goodness they bring to the king’s table, be it the “table” of the classroom, the clinic, the playground, the home.  If we are to be truly faithful to God’s vision, the compassion of God must transform our heart’s perspective, enabling us to see beyond ethnic stereotypes, economic distinctions, class and celebrity, to recognize every man, woman and child as made in the same image and likeness of God in which we were all created; we must be willing both to give joyfully what we have and to accept humbly what others bring to the table.  (Quoted by Fr. Kayala).

20) Church: The Only Thing in Town That Has Not Changed:
 
It is instructive to drive through ritzy developments - or what David Brooks once called "sprinkler cities" - and notice that everything a person could possibly want was thought of by the real estate developers. This can be seen in lots of places, including certain sections of northern Michigan along the Lake Michigan coast, an area that has recently seen an explosion of multi-million-dollar homes on the choicest lakefront lots. As that area has seen a sharp spike in wealthy residents, lots of things expanded accordingly. Malls needed to be built or upgraded, more movie screens and golf courses were required, lush horse stables were erected, world-class restaurants opened and flourished, and even supermarkets needed to add gourmet sections so that all the ingredients for truly high-end cooking could be found. About the only thing in this town that did not change was worship space. Despite a huge influx of new residents, somehow or another the same old white clapboard country church that has been there for years continues to suffice. Curious, isn't it? But for those busy making a life in this world it is often the case. So also in this parable such folks received the king's engraved invitation and responded, "Sounds great but I really need to keep an eye on the market today. Can I get a rain check?" (Rev.  Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations; Quoted by Fr. Kayala).

21) Clothing and Spiritual Change:
 
Clothing is a common New Testament metaphor for spiritual change. Paul wrote in Romans, "Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Rom 13:14). And in First Corinthians, "The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:53). In Colossians, we read, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12). Finally, in First Peter we are admonished, "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'" (1 Peter 5:5). Being clothed anew is a consistent New Testament expression for holiness and righteousness. The old clothes have to come off and new ones put on. Today’s gospel text  confronts us with the paradox of God's free invitation to the banquet with no strings attached and God's requirement of "putting on" something appropriate to that calling. The theological point is that we are warned of the dire consequences of accepting the invitation and doing nothing except showing up. (Rev. Mickey Anders, When Showing Up Isn't Enough

****
Perhaps you have heard of the family that moved into the neighborhood and the little country church decided to reach out to the family. When they arrived at the doorstep the members of the church were surprised to find that the family had 12 kids and were for the most part poor. They invited the family to services and said goodbye. Later that week the church responded to their need. They delivered a package to the family and said, "We want you to know that you and your entire family are welcome at our church anytime. We have bought you these gifts and we want you to feel comfortable and at ease in our congregation. We hope you can use these," and they left. The family opened the package to find 14 suits of clothing, beautiful clothes for every member of the family. Sunday came and the congregation waited for the family, and they waited. The family never showed. Wondering what could have possibly happened, after lunch the members of the church returned to the home and found the family just getting back, all dressed in their new clothes.

"We don't mean to be nosey but we would like to know what happened. We had hoped to see you this morning in church," the leader of the church inquired. 

The father spoke up. He said, "Well, we got up this morning intending to come. And we sure do appreciate your invitation. But after we showered, shaved, and dressed, why we looked so proper we went to the Episcopal Church."
That's a funny way of talking about a serious problem. Invitations are sent to many to come to church but so few people respond. It's frustrating. Many of you have reached out to neighbors or friends and asked them to come to church and you know all too well the disappointment, how few respond.
Maybe that is why we find this morning's parable so familiar...
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After World War II the world entered a grey combat zone known as the "Cold War." The two most powerful nations on earth, the US and the USSR, stood face to face, toe to toe, and seriously considered nuking each other. Thousands of nuclear warheads were armed and aimed by both nations, targeting each other's homelands, in a strategy known by the acronym MAD: Mutual Assured Destruction. President Truman even had to fire General Douglas MacArthur because of his insistence that we use nuclear weapons against the Chinese during the Korean war. Key players in the nuclear drama carried endearing names like "Gadget" (1st atom bomb-1945), "Fat Man" (Nagasaki-1945), "Little Boy" (Hiroshima-1945), "George" (1951), "Mike" (1952). But there was anything endearing about these weapons. Clearly this was madness. 

Even madder was the "official" response to this "Cold War" freezer burn. "Fall out shelters," both public and private, were constructed, places where people could momentarily be "safe" while the surface of the earth was scorched from radiation. School children were instructed to dive under their plywood desks and cover their heads in what were called "duck-under-the-desk" drills in order to "survive" a nuclear bomb attack. "Duck and Cover" was the 1950's and 60's version of "Dumb and Dumber." 

It was during this "Cold War" freeze that a smart-alecky, satirical magazine was born. It wasn't some well-heeled, upper-crust publication, financed by any special "lobbyist" group. It was "MAD magazine." A comic book. But a well-written comic critique of the craziness that was driving countries "MAD." 

MAD magazine dared to lampoon the possibility of global annihilation. Written for a 10-100 year old audience, in its pre-internet heyday MAD magazine was the place to peel back the looniness and manipulation of the times and to challenge its very young readers to consider everything they encountered with fresh eyes. 

Oh, the magazine was also fun as well as funny...  
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 Church: The Only Thing in Town That Has Not Changed 

It is instructive to drive through ritzy developments - or what David Brooks once called "sprinkler cities" - and notice that everything a person could possibly want was thought of by the real estate developers. This can be seen in lots of places, including certain sections of northern Michigan along the Lake Michigan coast, an area that has recently seen an explosion of multi-million dollar homes on the choicest lakefront lots. As that area has seen a sharp spike in wealthy residents, lots of things expanded accordingly. Malls needed to be built or upgraded, more movie screens and golf courses were required, lush horse stables were erected, world-class restaurants opened and flourished, and even supermarkets needed to add gourmet sections so that all the ingredients for truly high-end cooking could be found.

About the only thing in this town that did not change was worship space. Despite a huge influx of new residents, somehow or another the same old white clapboard country church that has been there for years continues to suffice. Curious, isn't it? But for those busy making a life in this world it is often the case. So also in this parable such folks received the king's engraved invitation and responded, "Sounds great but I really need to keep an eye on the market today. Can I get a rain check?"
Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
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 All Night Long . . . 

Some years ago, a friend of mine from church pulled me out into the parking lot to listen to a tape in her car. Darlene Malmo wanted me to hear her favorite Lionel Ritchie song. There was this song about life being like a party, "all night long." She said, "I am going to party all night long with God." That is what being a Christian is.

Some Christian say that it is not right to have such a mood of happiness and joy. Especially when there is so much starvation. When there is so much hunger. When there is so much suffering in the world, it is not right to be happy. 

But that is not true. I think of the hymn, "This Is My Father's World" and the great words to that hymn. "This is my father's world, o let me ne'ver forget. That though the wrong be oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my father's world, o let my heart by glad, for the Lord is king, let the heavens ring. God reigns, let the earth be glad." 

Yes, in this world there is so much suffering and so much starvation, but it is also a banquet. Joy, in the middle of suffering, is at the core of being a Christian.

Edward F. Markquart, Excuses to Avoid a Wedding
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 Clothing and Spiritual Change

Clothing is a common New Testament metaphor for spiritual change. Paul wrote in Romans, "Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Rom 13:14).

And in First Corinthians, "The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:53).
In Colossians, we read, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12).

Finally, in First Peter we are admonished, "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'" (1 Peter 5:5).

Being clothed anew is a consistent New Testament expression for holiness and righteousness. The old clothes have to come off and new ones put on.

This text confronts us with the paradox of God's free invitation to the banquet with no strings attached and God's requirement of "putting on" something appropriate to that calling. The theological point is that we are warned of the dire consequences of accepting the invitation and doing nothing except showing up.

Mickey Anders, When Showing Up Isn't Enough
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Prayers Should Prepare Us 

Reinhold Niebuhr often quoted a remark made to him by an agnostic friend who objected to the church, "not because of its dogmas but because of its trivialities," by which he meant "preoccupation with trivial concerns with the world hanging on the rim of disaster." Fred Craddock was invited to attend a prayer meeting at a home in a wealthy suburb of Atlanta. He said the group shared "weighty" prayer concerns like a date coming up on Friday night and the purchase of a new car, and one man announced they had had 75 answered prayers since the group started meeting. Then one of them turned to him and asked, "What do you think, Dr. Craddock?" Craddock, usually more reticent to criticize anybody's praying, was offended by the superficial and mechanistic reduction of Israel's God to what Paul Tillich called, "the Cosmic Bellhop." He couldn't help himself. He said, "Do you mean to tell me when people are starving in Africa and the poor are suffering in India and parents in Latin America can't sleep through the night wondering if the death squads will visit them, you folks are praying about dates and new cars?" 

Larry Bethune, Friends in High Places
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Humor: No, I'm Just Seasick

The writer Bill Henderson recalls meeting a man aboard a cruise ship who claimed to be an expert in guessing professions. "See that man over there," he said. "He is a physician." Bill checked and sure enough that was right. "How could you tell?" he asked the man. "Well," he said, "I saw the caring lines on his forehead and could tell he was a person of great compassion." Bill Henderson pointed to someone else and said, "What about him? What does he do?" "That's a lawyer," the expert said. Bill checked and sure enough, he was. The expert explained that the man had a scholarly look and was somewhat formal, indicating an attorney. Then Bill pointed to another man. The expert studied him and said, "That's a preacher." Bill
approached the man and asked, "Are you a preacher?" "No," said the man. "I'm just seasick; that's the reason I look so sad." 

How strange that many Christians have a long-faced reputation. Jesus could not have been that way; if he had been, children would not have clung to him so readily.

Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, Sermons.com
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Our Hope, Our Terror 

Several summers ago I spent three days on a barrier island where loggerhead turtles were laying their eggs. One night while the tide was out, I watched a huge female heave herself up on the beach to dig her nest and empty her eggs into it. Afraid of disturbing her, I left before she had finished. The next morning I returned to see if I could find the spot where her eggs lay hidden in the sand. What I found were her tracks leading in the wrong direction. Instead of heading back out to sea, she had wandered into the dunes, which were already as hot as asphalt in the morning sun. 

A little ways inland I found her: Exhausted, all but baked, her head and flippers caked with dried sand. After pouring water on her and covering her with sea oats, I fetched a park ranger who returned with a jeep to rescue her. He flipped her on her back, wrapped tire chains around her front legs, and hooked the chains to a trailer hitch on his jeep. Then I watched horrified as he took off, yanking her body forward so that her mouth filled with sand and her neck bent so far back I thought it would break.

 The ranger hauled her over the dunes and down onto the beach. At the ocean's edge, he unhooked her and turned her right side up. She lay motionless in the surf as the water lapped at her body, washing the sand from her eyes and making her skin shine again. A wave broke over her; she lifted her head slightly, moving her back legs. Other waves brought her further back to life until one of them made her light enough to find a foothold and push off, back into the ocean. Watching her swim slowly away and remembering her nightmare ride through the dunes, I reflected that it is sometimes hard to tell whether you are being killed or saved by the hands that turn your life upside down. 

Our hope, through all our own terrors, is that we are being saved. But this does not mean we lie down before the terrors. For as long as we have strength to fight, it is both our nature and our privilege to do so. Sometimes God's blessing does not come until daybreak, after a full night of emptying ourselves and wandering in the wrong direction. Our job is to struggle with the terrors, neither surrendering nor stealing away until they have yielded their blessings. 

Barbara Brown Taylor, The Other Side - Tales of Terror, Times of Wonder
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Living in God

In A Journey with the Saints, Thomas S. Kepler has written: "The secret of the revolution in the lives of the saints lies in the fact that their lives are centered in God. They never seem hurried, they have a large leisure, they trouble little about their influence; they refer the smallest things to God. They live in God." That is the great secret to successful living: the realization that when one reserves time to come to God's banquet, all of the rest of life will fall in place.

Adapted from Thomas S. Kepler
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 If We Miss a Deadline

A tough, old cowhand sauntered into a saloon and began drinking whiskey by the bottle. The more he drank, the more unruly he became, shooting holes in the ceiling and floor. Everybody was afraid to take on the old cowhand. Finally, a short, mild-mannered storekeeper walked up to the unruly cowhand and said, "I'll give you five minutes to get out of town." The old cowhand holstered his gun, pushed the whiskey bottle away, briskly walked out, got on his horse, and rode out of town. When he left, someone asked the storekeeper what he would have done if the unruly cowhand had refused to go. "I'd have extended the deadline," he said.
Many Christians have that concept of God: if we miss a deadline, God will simply extend it. They do not take the judgment of God seriously... 

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 From Father James Gilhooley:  

Cannibals in New Guinea invited a priest to visit under a truce. They had heard about Jesus. They wanted to see what influence He had on his life. The priest was gloomy. He never smiled. They decided to forget about Christ. They concluded that once the truce was over, they would not eat the priest. His tough hide would cause them heartburn. Hilaire Belloc wrote: "Wherever the Catholic sun does shine, there is always laughter and good red wine." Would Belloc say that about us? We are told it takes seventeen face muscles to smile but forty-three to frown. Laughter is the only tranquilizer yet developed that has no side effects. Our expression is the most important garment we wear. Yet, how many of us know fellow-Christians who never smile?  

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From Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa   

A friend of mine did his doctoral dissertation on food in the Bible. He pointed out that from Genesis to Revelation significant moments and events often times involve food. With Adam and Eve it was the forbidden fruit, for Moses it was the Passover Meal as well as the manna and quail in the desert, and for Elijah it was the widow of Zarephath. In the Gospels there is the wedding feast of Cana, the multiplication of the loaves and fish, and the Last Supper. The book of Revelation ends with the description of the Heavenly Jerusalem in all its' splendor, including the magnificent trees of life who each month produce fruit and whose leaves serve as medicine. There are many more instances of food in the Bible, but the point is made with above examples that they play a significant part in the stories, prophecies and teachings in the Bible. 
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 From Mark Copeland: Executable Outlines: 

The Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14)

INTRODUCTION 

1. We come to the third of three parables Jesus told when challenged by    the religious leaders in the temple during His last week...

   a. "The Two Sons" was told in regards to their rejection of John the       Baptist - Mt 21:28-32
   b. "The Wicked Vinedressers" described how God would reject them       because they had rejected His prophets, and ultimately His own       Son! - Mt 21:33-46
   c. In "The Wedding Feast", the wickedness and rebelliousness of the       religious leaders is even more vividly described - Mt 22:1-14 

2. In "The Wedding Feast", the Lord is revealing Himself and the nature    of their rejection more clearly than He did in the previous    parable...

   a. There He was indeed the son; but here He is a royal son
   b. There they were rejecting what they rightfully owed by way of  contract; but here they are rejecting kindness which had been graciously offered to them! 

3. In this parable, we also see an expansion of the element of Divine    Judgment...

   a. The previous parable described judgment upon Israel for rejecting      God's Son
   b. So does this parable, but it also describes judgment upon those       who have accepted the King's invitation, yet not in the way it      was intended to be received!

 [Let's read the parable beginning in Mt 22:1 (READ).  Now let's spend a few moments taking a closer look...] 

I. THE PARABLE ANALYZED

    A. AN INVITATION SPURNED (1-10)

      1. The kingdom of heaven is likened to a wedding feast - Mt 22:       1-2

         a. Isaiah had used the figure of a feast to prophecy of the Messianic age - Is 25:6
         b. The Book of Revelation describes a future marriage of the             Lamb and His Bride - Re 19:7

      2. And yet the invitation is spurned...

         a. By those indifferent - Mt 22:3-5
         b. By those rebellious - Mt 22:6

         -- Jesus may have reference here to the Jewish nation, as He     did in the parable of "The Wicked Vinedressers" - Mt 21:  33-46

      3. The King's furious reaction - Mt 22:7

         a. Those who had so callously rejected His invitation, abused   his servants, are themselves destroyed
         b. Many understand this to be a prophecy of the destruction of    Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 A. D. - Lk 19:41-44

      4. The invitation is extended to others - Mt 22:8-10

         a. As in the parable of "The Wicked Vinedressers", the   opportunity to enjoy the blessings of the kingdom of God is   extended to others - Mt 21:43
         b. This has reference to the offer of the gospel and the      kingdom to the Gentiles - cf. also Mt 8:5-12


   B. A GUEST IMPROPERLY ATTIRED (11-14)

      1. Without a wedding garment - Mt 22:11-12
         a. It was customary for the hosts to provide their guests  suitable apparel
         b. To not wear the provided garment showed a lack of respect and appreciation
         c. No real excuse could be offered for not wearing one ("he was speechless")

      2. The King's furious reaction - Mt 22:13
         a. The seriousness of the insult is seen in the reaction of the king
         b. The punishment described is similar to that found in other parables - Mt 13:42,50

      3. Jesus' conclusion - Mt 22:14
         a. This summarizes the main point of the entire parable
         b. The invitation (call) of God is extended to many, but few  receive it in such a way to be among the "chosen"

 [This parable was clearly told in response to the rejection of the King's Son and His Kingdom by the Jewish nation.  However, elements of the parable apply to us as well, for the invitation to attend "The

Wedding Feast" is still being offered through the call of the Gospel!
With that in mind, consider a few more thoughts on...]

 II. THE PARABLE APPLIED 

   A. HAVE YOU SPURNED THE FATHER'S INVITATION?

      1. Through indifference?

         a. Many people do not know God because of a lack of interest
         b. Yet God has so ordered the affairs of life to encourage  faith and interest in Him - Ac 17:26-27; Ro 1:20; 1Ti 2: 3-4

         c. For this reason, even those who through indifference do not know God and obey the gospel will be condemned - 2Th 1: 7-10

      2. Through rebelliousness?

         a. There are many who know full well the Father's invitation
         b. But for whatever reason they rebel against it
         c. In so doing, they despise riches of God's grace and store up for themselves God's righteous indignation - Ro 2:4-11 

   [Certainly all should respond to the Father's invitation if they desire to enjoy the spiritual blessings of the kingdom of heaven. But as we learn from the parable, there is more...]

    B. ARE YOU ATTIRED FOR THE WEDDING?

      1. Many seek to attend the "wedding" in apparel of their own choosing

         a. Some, not knowing the righteousness of God, have sought to establish their own - Ro 10:1-3
         b. People do this today, when they expect salvation on terms different than those taught in the gospel
            1) E.g., trying to obtain salvation based upon their own good works
            2) E.g., trying to obtain salvation on faith without  repentance and obedience

      2. We must be willing to put on the "apparel" that God gives us:
         a. We must "put on" Jesus Christ!

            1) First and foremost this involves clothing ourselves with  Christ
            2) Which Paul explains takes place in baptism - Ga 3:26-27
            -- Have you put Christ on in baptism?

         b. We must "put on" the new man!

            1) Paul applies the figure of putting on a garment to the development of Christian conduct and character - Col 3: 5-14

            2) Do we wish to be found at the wedding feast adorned with the apparel of the "old man with his deeds"?
            -- Are you putting off the "old man", and putting on the "new man"?

         c. We must "put on" righteous deeds!

            1) John described the preparation for glorious wedding of
               the Lamb and His bride - Re 19:6-9

            2) We understand that the "righteous acts of the saints"
               are not done to merit salvation - Tit 3:4-5

            3) They are done to bring honor to God, and therefore we
               are to be ever ready and zealous to do good works - cf.

               Mt 5:16; Tit 3:1,8,14

            -- Are you doing what you can to "beautify" the wedding
               garment of the bride? 

CONCLUSION 

1. We have truly been blessed to be given the opportunity to receive
   the Father's invitation to the wedding feast of His Son! 

2. But we learn from Jesus and His parables that the "kingdom of
   heaven" is for those who thankfully and properly receive the grace
   that God has to offer 

3. The example of the nation of Israel should serve as a warning to
   all, both Jew and Gentile, that while God's call of the gospel is
   open to all, the saying of Jesus still remains true...

               "For many are called, but few are chosen." 

You have been called, but will you be chosen?