Sunday Sermon for October 11, 2020, the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 25:6-10a; Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt 22:1-14
In the second reading St. Paul says: “I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me.” The context of this is that St. Paul has learned to live in whatever circumstances he finds himself. He can live in humble circumstances or with abundance; he can go hungry or be well fed. In other words, he is able to see God’s will in whatever situation he finds himself and, more than that, he has learned to trust God to be with him and provide the grace he needs to come through whatever might be his present state of affairs.
This is certainly the disposition all of us need to acquire. It should be part and parcel of the simple living out of our Christian lives, but in our present condition, it is becoming an urgent necessity. Each of us has to ask how much we really trust God. It is easy to give lip service and talk about trust as long as we are warm and well fed. However, it is considerably more difficult when we find ourselves in a position that is out of our control.
We have to put things into context. Remember that, in Second Corinthians, St. Paul listed a number of the awful things he endured: being whipped, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, etc. So, when he is talking about learning to live in whatever circumstances he finds himself, he is not just speaking of being cold or hungry; he is talking about any and every circumstance.
There are two points to this disposition we must consider. The first point is our unworthiness to even be in the vineyard of the Lord. As we see in the Gospel reading today, we are not the ones who were considered worthy to be invited to the banquet. Instead, when those invited declined the invitation, not only did they lose their place, but the king brought in everyone he could find, good and bad. Perhaps you are one of the good ones; I am not sure how they ever found someone like me. Regardless, good or bad, our names were not on the original guest list.
So, knowing our own unworthiness, we have to be grateful we are even at the banquet. It should not matter to us whether we are seated at or near the head of the table or whether we are eating in the servants’ quarters. Who cares? The meal is the same, the only difference is the circumstances in which we are eating it. Considering that we have done nothing to deserve to be at the banquet, we need to grateful even to be present.
When we look at the Gospel reading and see that one of the people who arrived was not properly dressed and was thrown out, we might think this to be inappropriate. After all, the man had not been invited and he shows up in whatever clothes he had, why should the king be upset? Certainly, this is about being in the state of grace, but I think we can also say it is about our disposition toward God. None of us will enter the King’s Feast until we are humble, grateful, charitable, etc.
In the first reading we hear about death being destroyed on God’s holy mountain. Death was destroyed on Mount Calvary, but the real mountain is Jesus Himself. We see this in the vision of Daniel when he interpreted the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar regarding the statue that was gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Each was a universal kingdom, but in the time of the last kingdom a stone, not touched by human hands, would be hewn from a mountain and become a mountain that would fill the whole world. That mountain in Jesus; on that mountain death was destroyed and life was revealed.
Jesus is also the Feast of the rich food and choice wine spoken of in the first reading. He is present now in the Eucharist, but He will be our “food” for all eternity. Since death was destroyed in Him and life is revealed through Him, we must come to Him if we want to have participation in this great work. I would submit that the best way to come to Him is to have the same disposition as He did.
He chose to be the least and the slave of all. He chose to embrace His Cross and to die for us. He had every reason to complain, but He did not. He had every right to be angry, but was not. When we look at Him and what He endured for us, how is it possible for us to be angry, unforgiving, complaining, etc. God’s grace is there for us in every circumstance; He will strengthen us and help us to choose the disposition of Christ.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.