Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence.  Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

OPENING PRAYER

Gracious and Holy Father,
Please give me:
intellect to understand you,
reason to discern you,
diligence to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
a spirit to know you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
ears to hear you,
eyes to to see you,
a tongue to proclaim you,
a way of life pleasing to you,
patience to wait for you
and perseverance to look for you.

Grant me a perfect end,
your holy presence,
a blessed resurrection
and life everlasting.

Amen.

St. Benedict of Norcia
ca. 480-547

COLLECT

May your grace, O Lord, we pray,

at all times go before us and follow after

and make us always determined

to carry out good works.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 25:6-10a

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

APPLICATION

Seven hundred years or so before Christ came on earth the prophet Isaiah described the result of that coming under the image of a bountiful banquet in which those taking part would find everlasting happiness and contentment. He was referring, of course, to heaven, the second and final stage of the messianic kingdom. There all tears will be wiped away, there death will no longer have sway. There every desire for what is good and what is perfect will be satisfied, and man’s natural desire for perfect happiness will be fulfilled.

What the prophet foretold Christ brought to pass. He who was God’s Son took our human nature. He made us his brothers and co-heirs with him of heaven, thus fulfilling God’s plan for mankind. God intended that we should share his eternal kingdom of happiness when we die. This we can now do because through the Incarnation of his Son we have been made his adopted sons.

Heaven, therefore, is ours for the taking. God the Father intended it for us, God the Son has earned it for us, God the Holy Spirit is ready at every moment of our lives to assist us to obtain it. We have very few descriptions of heaven in our revelation, because our minds are incapable of grasping its infinite happiness and perfection. St. Paul’s negative description is perhaps the best we can get. He had been given a vision of heaven but he said he could not describe it in human language, nor could anyone, while still alive on earth, understand him even if Paul could describe it. He says that “no (human) eye has seen, no human ear has heard, no human mind can grasp all that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Negative though our descriptions are, we can form a sufficient picture of it to make us want to reach it. Who would not want to have: eternal freedom from all cares and worries; eternal freedom from pain, sickness and death; eternal union with all friends and relatives and with all the saints of God, the eternal company of Mary the Virgin Mother, and the assured and lasting friendship and love of Christ our Savior in his human nature, and to crown all, the beatific vision of God in the three divine persons?

Is it any wonder that many saints, including St. Paul himself, longed to put off this mortal life so that they could be in the happy possession of heaven! Unfortunately for ourselves, we ordinary Christians do not give enough thought to heaven. If we meditated more often on the future life, we would see world for what it is; a journey, a very short journey, often unpleasant and difficult, but a journey by means of which we can reach that future home if we travel as God wants us. Too many of us mistake this world for the future one. We try to get our perfect happiness here on earth even though the most thoughtless among us shall have to leave this world. Not even the merciful God himself can take us into his eternal banquet unless we have traveled through this world on the path he has laid down for us, or repented of our sins if we have strayed from that path.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

READING II

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Phil 4:12-14, 19-20

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 273 Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power.1 The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that “nothing will be impossible with God”, and was able to magnify the Lord: “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”2

CCC 1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, “provided we suffer with him.”3


The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of “him who strengthens” us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ. .. in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth “fruits that befit repentance.” These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.4

1 Cf. 2 Cor 12:9; Phil 4:13.
2 Lk 1:37, 49.
3 Rom 8:17; Rom 3:25; 1 Jn 2:1-2; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1690.
4 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1691; cf. Phil 4:13; 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17; Gal 6:14; Lk 3:8.

APPLICATION

The generous unsolicited aid which the Christian converts of Philippi gave to St. Paul should be an example and encouragement to all Christians to help in the spread of the gospel. We have St. Paul’s word for it that such generosity will not go unrewarded in this life and the next. What is given for God’s work for our fellowman is not lost but invested; it will reap an abundant harvest perhaps when we least expect it. Our surest and most direct entry to heaven is when we help to bring as many of our fellowmen as we can with us. The “loner” who excludes others from his life and prayer is a non-starter in the heavenly journey.

There is another important lesson too for all of us in today’s few short verses from St. Paul. It is our need for a complete and unquestioning trust in God and the firm conviction that he is regulating all the affairs of our lives. Our Lord himself tells us: “can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair in your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid, you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows” (Mt. 10: 29).

St. Paul had learned this lesson well and put it into daily practice. He faced trials and troubles as gladly as he faced peace and plenty. for he was convinced that God allowed la7i these things to happen for his salvation and for the spread of God’s kingdom, the Church. We too must learn this lesson. We must have complete confidence in God. Our whole lives are in his capable hands. If he allows temporal or spiritual trials to assail us, he has a good purpose in so doing. We may not see that purpose, but we can be certain it is there. If the little sparrow is under his care how much more so are not we—his chosen children. If the hairs of our head are numbered by God, how much more so are not our daily sorrows and joys his concern?

To make a statue from a lump of stone the sculptor has to chip and cut and hew. If the stone could object, it would most likely tell that sculptor how unjust and unmerciful he was. But when the statue is finished that which was once a lump of rough stone will be a thing of beauty and dignity on a pedestal for all to see. God is the perfect Sculptor. He intends to place us on an everlasting pedestal of glory. To do this he has to cut and hew and chip away at us all through our life. Those of us who realize God’s divine plan for us will, instead of complaining, thank him for the infinite love which makes him take such pains to make us what we ought to be.

GOSPEL

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Mt 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
“Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101517.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”1 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”.2 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins”.3

CCC 796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist.4 The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.”5 The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him.6 The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb.7 “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”8 He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:9

This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many. .. whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? “The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”10 And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”11 They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union,. .. as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself “bride.”12

CCC 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”13

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”14

1 Mk 2:17; cf. l Tim 1:15.
2 Lk 15:7; cf. 7:11-32.
3 Mt 26:28.
4 Jn 3:29.
5 Mk 2:19.
6 Cf. Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 1 Cor 6:15-17; 2 Cor 11:2.
7 Cf. Rev 22:17; Eph 1:4. 5:27.
8 Eph 5:25-26.
9 Cf. Eph 5:29.
10 Eph 5:31-32.
11 Mt 19:6.
12 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 74:4: PL 36, 948-949.
13 Mt 7:13-14.
14 LG 48 # 3; Mt 22:13; cf. Heb 9:27; Mt 25:13, 26, 30, 31 46

APPLICATION

How foolish the Pharisees were in not listening to our Lord’s warnings. He gave them every opportunity to turn away from the false path which their pride had chosen for them. His divine heart was ever ready to embrace them if only they would say “mea culpa.” “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets, and stone them that are sent to you, how often would I have gathered together your children, as the hen does her chickens under her wings, and you would not?” (Mt. 23:37). “God created us without our cooperation,” says St. Augustine, “but he cannot save us unless we cooperate.”

We too could make the Pharisees’ mistake. We have the invitation to the wedding feast; in fact, we are already in the banquet hall, since our baptism; but are we wearing the wedding garment of virtue and grace? If not, we are no better off than those who rejected the invitation. The king may come in at any moment and cast out those who are not properly dressed. Being a member of the Church on earth is a wonderful privilege, and a sure guarantee that we will reach heaven, if we do what is expected of us. But the same obstacles which prevented the Pharisees from entering the kingdom–love of this world, its wealth and its pleasures–can impede us too, unless we are on our guard. The world with its allurements is very close to us; heaven seems very far away. Thus we must be prepared to do violence to our ordinary inclinations, to go against them whenever and wherever “the things that are Caesar’s” tend to blot out or make us forget “the things that are God’s.”

This implies a daily carrying of the cross, a daily struggle against our evil inclinations, a daily endeavor to acquire true love of God and neighbor. This may sound superhuman, but Christ did not ask anyone to do the impossible. He led the way, and millions have followed him to eternal glory. He has called us too and has placed within our easy reach in his Church all the grace we need. If we fail to use these divine helps, if we are found without the wedding garment, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. We have been called with the many. We can be among the “chosen.”

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Sharing God’s Wisdom

Wisdom is a sharing in God’s ability to see and judge things as they really are. God reveals himself as God by his just judgements; as God, he sees things without disguise, as they really are, and deals with each according to his truth. Wisdom is a sharing in God’s way of seeing reality. But there are, obviously, certain preconditions to this knowing from God’s perspective. We cannot possess it unless we are united with God. This, in turn, means that this last and deepest mode of knowledge is not just an intellectual experience. In all that is essential, the incorruptibility of God himself belongs to this deepest kind of knowledge, then there belongs to it also that purity of the “I” without which man is not incorruptible. From this, the meaning of the concepts “gifts of God” and “sharing in God’s way of thinking” also become clear. Only if we let ourselves be cleansed of the corruptibility of the “I” and come thus gradually to live by God, to be united with God, do we come to a true inner freedom of judgement, to a fearless independence of thinking and deciding, that no longer cares about the approval or disapproval of others but clings only to truth. Such a purification is always a process of opening oneself and, at the same time, of receiving oneself. It cannot take place without the suffering of the vine that is pruned. But it makes possible the only form of power that leads, not to slavery, but to freedom.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 138

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,

you have heard the words of my mouth.

In the presence of the angels I will bless you.

I will adore before your holy temple.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love

which excel all we ever knew of you.

On the day I called, you answered;

you increased the strength of my soul.

All earth’s kings shall thank you

when they hear the words of your mouth.

They shall sing of the Lord’s ways:

How great is the glory of the Lord!”

Glory to the Father, and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,

is now and ever shall be

world without end. Amen.

 

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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