“We Proclaim the Feast”
October 11, 2020
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 106:1-5, 48
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
We proclaim the Feast! The feast is a picture of the kingdom of God that gladly He has chosen to give us. He invites us to participate in this grand feast. Understand that when Jesus tells us a parable, it is not really exactly a cryptic code to crack such that each item or character has an exact equivalent whether it be God, the Israelites, sinners and the like. Jesus' audience was first century Galilean peasants Jews who were familiar with oppressive kings, landlords, and judges. They understand the use of these figures.
Jesus uses hyperbole where He exaggerates, but the people understand it. The hearers get it, and they know which is true or not true. They know what is correct and what exaggeration is. Jesus uses satire that uses some sarcasm or humor with a little insult. When people understand the figures of speech and parables, the more they remember the point being shared. Not every item or character in the parable is one hundred percent representing something. God is sometimes portrayed as a king, like this parable, but He is not one hundred percent like this king in every respect. In the king’s good behavior, he represents God. In his bad behavior, he doesn’t represent God. He represents God in that he is a gracious king who gives a banquet to everyone indiscriminately – good or bad, rich or poor, man or woman, young and old. Being impatient, vindictive or violent is not a representation of God. The point is we get the whole picture and the main message.
Some wrongly interpret parables and ascribe to God attributes that are not supposed to be ascribed to Him. God doesn’t kill people but He does give a lavish banquet like Isaiah did. Understand that we are thousands of years removed from Jesus' audience - the Jews - in terms of language, idioms, culture, socio-economics, politics and even religion. We should be mature enough to understand this. Watching movies of James Bond, Dominic Toreto or Ethan Hunt, a child would think that they have the ability to do impossible stunts, but adults would know that this is not possible. It is an exaggeration. The whole point is to show that good triumphs over evil for evil can’t prosper.
In the parable, the king invited guests and those who were invited first, the Israelites, were unwilling to come. This is an exaggeration. There is no way that people at that time would say no to a king for he was important and dreaded. Then, the king invited others to his lavish preparations, and again, it is understood that a king would not invite all to his wedding hall. In this respect, the king is not like God for God is gracious. Some of those who were invited paid no attention for personal reasons. They made a statement that some things are more important than God.
Excuses that people give reveal what they value more. There may be valid excuses but generally speaking, excuses given by a person tell what is most important to him. It is a big insult for a king to be ignored after he spends a lot of money, time and effort for preparations to invite people who are not worthy to be invited to his party. It is a political statement, treason and insurrection because the king was giving a banquet in honor of his son’s wedding who was his successor, and it was making a statement that he was not respected. What is Jesus’ point? The kingdom of God is very, very important. It is a big deal. Nothing else is more important.
I was taught decades ago: if your leader tells you to do something, you drop all everything else. An idol is something that we value more than God. Scriptures says that there is no place in the kingdom of God for idolaters. If we give importance to something or someone other than God, then, God will honor our desire to be somewhere else than in His kingdom. True worshippers sing, "There is no place that I would rather be than here in Your love and in Your presence."
In the wedding feast, there were also guests who did not come in their wedding clothes. The Jews before, no matter how poor they were, had special clothes for special occasions. It was not necessarily expensive, but it was special. We call it our Sunday best – our best effort in preparation. When we come to God not in our best, we are making a statement that God is not important. What is God’s value to us is what is seen in the preparation that we make. Do we value God’s kingdom, His church? It is a reflection how much He is to us. It is called our “worth-ship.” This is the baton that we pass on to the next generation. How they see us value God – how much or how less – is how they will value God as well. We can offer people excuses but when we are faced before God, and God asks us and be honest before Him, we will actually be speechless.
Jesus said that eternal life is to know God. To know is to enter into a covenant of love as in marriage. This relationship is defined by love, not by law or rules and regulations. Rules and regulations have a place in the relationship. Is change required for us to enter into a relationship? Yes, it is required by love, not by law. Spouses would change their not so good ways if they love their partners. They need to change clothes.
Sometimes, we treat God like this – like cheap grace – thinking that as God always forgives daily, it is okay for one to sin. The relationship is a covenant of love. Being in a relationship, there must be no forced obedience. We have to be in our wedding clothes. Some people say, “I come to the kingdom of God just as I am.” This is in the beginning, like the prodigal son who was accepted by his father even if he smelled. The son, realizing the unconditional acceptance of his father, changed his ways to give honor to his father, to be fit for the palace of his father.
Change should come from us. If we don’t change, there is no love. It is not about disobedience, but all about love and this is where the rules come in. St Paul says in Galatians 4:4 about love, “I no longer live for myself.” In marriage, a spouse no longer has authority over his/her body even his/her time and money. They can’t just do what they want to do anymore. It is not about enforcement of rules but enjoying the love that is in the relationship and discovering the joy of denying oneself and giving of self to the spouse and the family. Rules should be in their heart and one voluntarily does it because they have discovered that is it more blessed to give to their children instead of buying luxury items for themselves.
If we miss the point, there really is no love, therefore, no relationship. Psalms 40 says, “I delight to do Your will.” He was not forced, but delighted and enjoyed doing God’s will and discovered the joy of the Lord. In a love relationship, rules are not legalistic or oppressive. If we think so, we miss the point. Following the rules confirms the love. We might think that God is self-sufficient, but He wants us to enter in the relationship and to give to Him. What can we give to Him that He doesn’t already have? What do we have that He has not given? The point is not Him receiving, but the point of us discovering the joy of giving and to prove that we have love. If there is no love, there is no real relationship. If there is no real relationship, there is no real eternal life. Eternal life is to know God.
God wills for us is to have fullness of life, hence, He invites us to participate. Respond to the invitation and discover the joy. There is nothing else.
Brothers, sisters, listen: there is nothing in this world that is more important than what God invites us to participate in. He is inviting us. Prioritize His kingdom. It is for our sake. It is a blessing and responding to it, discovering the joy of being in it is the point. This is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.