THE TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY, October 11, 2020
(Isaiah 25: 6-10; Philippians 4: 12-14.19-20; Matthew 22: 1-14)
Six years ago the headlines reported something striking. They said that Pope Francis believes there is room for pets in heaven. It was new news because the Church had never declared on such a thing. However, after an investigation it was determined that the pope said nothing about saving animals. The journalists were obviously confused.
It's not that the Church has a disdain for animals. Rather, she views only human persons, made in the image of God, as worthy of an eternal destiny. Yes, animals, particularly those with feelings, deserve respect. But it would be like finding a donkey flying in the air to see an animal wandering in the sky. A more knotty question than the animals in the sky is whether all human persons will be found there. For the love that the Lord requires of us, we hope so. However, the Gospel today indicates that this is not certain.
The parable of Jesus should be heard as relating the history of Israel. All elements correspond to the people and events of that nation. The king is God. The wedding banquet is the eternal life that He has prepared for His people as the first reading says. The servants who come out to invite the people to the banquet are the prophets. The first guests are the leaders of the people with money in their pockets and arrogance in their hearts. When invited by the king, they look for excuses not to attend the banquet. In fact, the leaders of Israel brutally persecuted the prophets Jeremiah and Amos.
Then the king makes a second invitation. This time the servants are the apostles of Jesus who call the people to repentance. Those who respond are both criminals and prostitutes and ordinary people. They are accepted into the banquet if they have left their former ways to live as sons and daughters of God. But one person has sneaked into the celebration without changing his life. It is identified by not having a party dress. This costume is the baptismal dress that symbolizes that the person has chosen a new way of life. Because man has not conformed to the ways of God, he does not belong in the banquet.
We read this parable at Mass not to learn the history of Israel but to help us please God. As the Philippians in the second reading are generous with Saint Paul, God wants us to help the poor. A parish asks for pledges from families to make sandwiches for the homeless. It is not a difficult task, but it palpably contributes the good of the unfortunate. Unfortunately many of the families that have compromised do not keep their promises. They will no doubt have excuses comparable to those of the first guests in the parable. They are busy and have to take care of their pets. These families are like the man without a party suit; that is, without real reform.
An Internet service gives five excuses for not going to work. One excuse is that a large shipment is expected. Another is that you had to make an appointment with the vet for the pet. The world likes excuses to avoid unpleasant things. But we should be careful. The heavenly feast is not unpleasant but is the most pleasant thing possible. We don't want to overlook the invitation. Rather, we want to do everything possible to enjoy it.