Here as in Heaven: Invited

Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

INTRODUCTION – Tonight we begin our second Life Night homily series called Here as in Heaven. Over the next couple of weeks, we will dive more deeply into how the Lord is calling us to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven now and how each of us has been tasked with the mission to go out and make that Kingdom ever more present in our world today. The themes of the three talks will be Invited, Chosen, and Sent. We have been invited by the Lord to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven, chosen as God’s beloved sons and daughters, and sent to bring the Good News to the world, teaching others about the love of God and neighbor. Tonight, we will focus on the invitation each of us has received to actively participate in the Banquet of Heaven, how the Father calls us to come to the feast. And we do this first and foremost by our participation in the Eucharist.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BANQUETS – Within our Catholic faith tradition, the sharing of a meal has always had a prominent place. Even prior to Jesus establishing the Eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, the sharing of a meal was part of the traditions of our Jewish ancestors. This is evidenced throughout the liturgical practices of Temple worship but also in the traditional Jewish holidays that take place throughout the year. For example: Passover and Shabbat. Throughout Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments, the image of a banquet or a feast is often times used to highlight some characteristic of Heaven or to reveal to us something about who God is.

BANQUET IN ISAIAH – Our first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah uses the image of the banquet to describe the fullness of life that God wants to bestow upon the people of Israel…and by extension upon us. It is a message that was offered to the Israelites that was meant to bring a sense of great hope. Isaiah speaks of the promise that God was going to liberate His Chosen People from the hostile forces of the world, that He was going to lift the veil that had covered the nations. Likewise, the passage promises that God’s victory would be celebrated with a great banquet. These verses were not intended to be a message just for the Israelites, though; they were also supposed to be a message for all of us.

When read with a lens pointing to the end times, these words from Isaiah also give us a glimpse into what is to come in Eternity. It tells us what dwelling with the Father will look like. Heaven will be one heck of a party! It is likened to a feast with the most decadent food and the best wine. It will be a time of overwhelming joy and peace where all of our sorrows, ailments, burdens, and anxieties are taken away. It is a place where all of the things that we have done wrong in our lives are forgotten and, instead, we are simply loved for who we are. Sounds pretty incredible doesn’t it?

This is the same understanding of the banquet that Jesus is trying to share with the Scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel parable. But it comes with a warning…we have to be prepared; we have to be worthy of attending; we have to be willing to respond.

THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING FEAST – Jesus doesn’t tell this parable to simply show how the Kingdom of God would be open to everyone – although, that is certainly part of it. But the main reason for telling this parable was to show the Jewish leaders how they had become so unworthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. The parable is meant to be a wakeup call to them and to the entire Jewish people.

Within the story, Jesus describes different kinds of people who had been invited to the Banquet. Some of those who were invited probably had a closer relationship with the king. The king then sends his servants to tell them that the feast is ready, but they didn’t feel obliged to attend. They either asked to be excused, gave excuses not to come, or killed the servants. The Jewish people and their leaders are these individuals who were initially invited.[1]

As God’s Chosen People, they were selected by the Father to be His own and, despite them falling away from the Lord time and again and choosing to do things that were contrary to the Law, the Father continually established and renewed covenants with them. He gave them every opportunity to turn from their sinfulness and yet they were stubborn. He sent the Prophets to teach them about the Kingdom of Heaven, to call them back to relationship with Him. Yet, the Israelites refused to listen many times. Most of the time, those prophets ended up being killed. And so God decided that if the Israelites were going to continually reject His invitation to deeper intimacy and relationship with Him, that He would open the promise to others.

In the parable, once the King recognizes that he had been abandoned by his friends, he commanded his servants to go out and invite those subjects of his who were complete strangers to him, maybe even those people who were not part of his kingdom – the good and the bad alike. This represents how God would open the Kingdom of Heaven to everyone – to the Jews and the Gentiles. If the Jewish people, those who were initially invited, rejected the invitation, then their place would be taken by others. And that is certainly what happened. Hence, why Jesus came into the world. Jesus opened the door to everyone that they might become the new People of God.

THE NEW PEOPLE OF GOD – As the Christian community, we are now the ones who have received the invitation to the feast. And in a very real way, we are called to participate in that feast already. The Kingdom of God is not just something in the future; it has already been established by the institution of the Eucharist. Christ the King invites us right now to come to the great feast with every celebration of the Eucharist, to show us how much we mean to him and to lavish spiritual joy and refreshment on us.[2] It is through the Eucharist that “God is calling us, as individuals and as members of Christ’s community, to a deeper and better life. His call may be very gentle, but it is very insistent and very real. We all hear it from time to time, coming mostly from deep within us.”[3]

INVITATION TO DEEPER INTIMACY WITH THE FATHER – God’s call comes to us in different ways and reaches us at different levels. However, this call is not so much a voice as it is a tug on our hearts. He is calling us to a deeper, more authentic life of Christian discipleship. He is calling us into relationship. He is calling us into deeper intimacy with Him. “The parable [in today’s Gospel teaches] us something of the life-long intimacy that God desires with each one of us.” [4] The Father’s desire for intimacy with us is expressed through the marriage of His Son to the Church, which will ultimately take place on Good Friday when Jesus offers Himself on the Cross. And yet, despite the Father’s deep desire for intimacy and union with us, so many of us refuse to reply to the divine invitation. What do some of those refusals look like? What keeps us from responding with enthusiasm? What prevents us from entering into that deeper relationship with the Father? What excuses do we make?

OUR EXCUSES – We say something like: “I know I should pray, but I just can’t seem to find the time for it.” Yet we spend hours on end scrolling through Facebook, watching Instagram reels or TikTok, or binging on the latest show on Netflix.

We say: “I really should try to go to Mass today, but that great football game is happening today.”

We hear someone speak about the need for conversion in our lives and we respond by saying: “Oh, I don’t need to go to confession; I’m really not that bad of a person.”

We say things like: “I know dishonesty or lust or jealousy are wrong, but everyone does it and I’m not hurting anyone.”  

Does any of that sound familiar? The Lord’s invitation is always offered to us, but we constantly find ways to get out of responding. Like the people in the parable, the temptation for us is give excuses for not responding with enthusiasm to the Lord’s invitation. And “the greatest danger is not that we might abandon God and turn toward doing evil, but rather that we might just ignore God’s invitation.”[5] Yet, despite those excuses, the Lord doesn’t stop offering his invitation to us. He continually calls us to the banquet; He continually calls us to conversion; He continually calls us to deeper intimacy with Him. The “same invitation of ‘Come to the feast!’ is shouted as loudly in our ears today as it was centuries ago when Jesus first told this story to the Jewish leaders.”[6]  We simply need to have the courage to respond.

CONCLUSION – Today, each of us is invited to participate in the Banquet of Heaven which will take place right here on this altar. If there is something that is preventing us from responding to that invitation with total receptivity, bring that to the Lord in the Eucharist today. Ask the Holy Spirit to fall fresh upon us, to make His grace overflow in our hearts that we may come to recognize the presence of the Lord in our midst and that we may have the courage to always respond to His invitation to come to the Feast and make His Kingdom known here as in heaven.

[1] ePriest, “You’re Invited to the Party Every Sunday,” Homily Packs, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A).

[2] ePriest, “You’re Invited to the Party Every Sunday,” Homily Packs, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A).

[3] “28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A”

[4] Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC, “Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A.”

[5] Fr. Flor McCarthy, “The Banquet” in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies: Year A (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 2001), 318.

[6] Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC, “Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A.”

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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