28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel

Isaiah 25:6-10

Philippians 4:10-14,19-20

Matthew 22:1-14

Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Are We Having Fun Yet?

 At a church conference in Omaha, people were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt joy in their hearts. All through the service worshippers kept releasing balloons. At the end of the service it was discovered that most of them still had their balloons. If this experiment were repeated in our church today, how many of us would still have our balloons at the end of the service? Many of us think of God’s house as a place for seriousness, a place to close one’s eyes and pray, but not a place of celebration, a place where we can have fun. The parable of the Great Supper in today’s gospel paints a different picture. The Christian assembly is a gathering of those who are called to the Lord’s party. In the Eucharist we say of ourselves, “Happy are those who are called to his supper.” The Lord invites us to a supper, a banquet, a feast. Can you imagine a wedding feast in which everyone sits stone-faced, cold and quiet?

The parable shows us three possible kinds of guests. There are the absentee guests who initially accept the invitation, but when the time comes to honor the invitation they draw back. There are the guests without wedding garments who attend the feast but do not take the trouble to prepare adequately for it, as the occasion deserves. And then there are the guests with wedding garments who make the necessary preparation to present themselves fit for the king’s banquet.

The scary thing about the absentee guests is that they are not sinners. They are generally engaged in legitimate, not sinful activity. One goes to his farm, another to his business. These are necessary and useful occupations. Sometimes what keep us away from the joy of the kingdom is not sin but preoccupation with the necessities of life. To be serious with our job is a good thing, but when our job keeps us away from attending the Lord’s Supper, then it has become an obstacle. It has become a killjoy that hinders us from experiencing the joy of the Lord. There is a saying that the good is the enemy of the best. If only those absentee guests knew what they were missing by not attending the feast! It used to be that people attended church service to fulfill a “Sunday obligation,” otherwise it would be counted against them as sin. This kind of fear no longer motivates young people today. More people would probable come to church if they knew they were missing out on the fun of celebrating and feasting with the Christian community.

On the guest without the wedding garment, to speculate on whether he had enough time to go home and put on his wedding garment is beside the point of the parable. The point of the parable is: if you must go the dance, you must wear your dancing shoes. If you must go to a wedding, you must wear your wedding garment. By not wearing a wedding garment, he was physically in the party, but his mind and spirit were not there. He was in the feast but he was not in the mood for feasting. Jesus hates this kind of lukewarm, uncommitted attitude. In fact, it is better not to attend at all than to be there and yet not there. The invitation is to all, the party is free for all, yet anyone who decides to attend has a responsibility to present themselves fit for the king’s company. The kingdom of God is freely offered to us. Those of us on the way to the kingdom must spare no effort in acquiring the moral and spiritual character that is consonant with life in the kingdom.

Finally there are the guests who attend the wedding feast, taking care to appear in the proper wedding garment. They are the only ones who have fun and enjoy the party. They are the models whose example we should follow. Today’s gospel sends a message to those who are keeping away from the Lord’s Supper that they are missing out on the joy of life. To those of us who have accepted the invitation to come in, this parable warns us not to take God’s grace for granted but to clean ourselves up and become the most beautiful person that we can be in God’s sight. The message is the same as we have in Colossians 3:14: “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

 Homily # 1

The reign of God may be likened to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the wedding. ” Gospel of Day.

Could we appropriate this theme of the Gospel and pin it down to a very particular and most important and serious matter to which you have been invited? You and your parish, the parish, the banquet to which you have been called.

Advisedly I use the word “Your”. The parish is yours and you are the parish. You are the Body of Christ and your parish and you are just one part of that magnificent, worldwide body established by Jesus Christ that was spread across the land by the Apostles and missionaries down through the centuries. Pastors, at God’s will, have come to lead and direct you. The parish is not theirs. They come and go; you remain. The parish lives on.

In a real and genuine sense we are an “Episcopal” Church, the first “Episcopal” Church. From the beginning the Lord Jesus appointed Apostles, disciples, “presbyters”, “overseers”, or as we call them “episcopos” (from which our word “bishop” is derived) and sent them forth across the face of the earth to carry the Good News to all. From the Acts of the Apostles and the history of the early Church we find that the early Christians very seriously and sincerely followed the seeds planted by the Lord Jesus. They began to form and grow into faith communities. In what was an amazing period of history, beginning with twelve men, the Good News of Christ was spread to every nook and cranny of the world, the world known at that time. The work of those twelve and their helpers will always boggle the mind of Christians as we see them as missionaries and evangelists teaching the entire world of Christ.

As they spread across the land they would need help and assistance. Arriving in this or that city or country, they would draw together a group who would believe and love the Good News that was being proclaimed. They would win some to a love of Christ, would teach them, baptize them, confirm them, teach them to love the Eucharist, and then, they, the bearers of the Good News would move on the new lands and territories. But they would leave behind a community, a gathering, a parish, diocese, call it what you will. But they would not leave without appointing someone to be in charge, to direct, to guide, to nourish and teach — the pastor. And in just that way, eventually, did the faith come to our parish right here in this time and place.

We hear so often today a common remark made by those claiming to be Christian yet not belonging to a church or parish. “I don’t have to go to church to pray.” “Why do I have to go to a priest to obtain forgiveness for sin?” “Why must I go to Mass, receive the Eucharist, in order to commune with God?”? The answer is very simple. We must do these things because the Lord Jesus has determined that this is what must be done.

If a person is to be a Christian as Jesus taught, he must do it in and through a group, a community, a faith community.

A person can pray by himself, he can walk in the woods and commune with his God, but he cannot be a Christian according to the directions of the Lord Jesus. To be a Christian as Jesus intended one must commit himself or herself to a community of faith and take a share in responsibility for that community.

Just recently I read what I thought was a most incisive remark. It was observed that when Jesus came to earth, He announced through John the Baptist that there was need for “reform”. No longer would faith be a private affair of something experienced just within families such as the Passover meal. Rather, an immense change would take place. Instead of just a family gathering for a meal, the whole community would gather. To demonstrate this even more, when people prayed, no longer would prayer begin with the pronoun “I”. As you remember Jesus said, “When you pray say, “Our Father!” The whole gathering, community prays as one.

Of course this teaching would mean very little if it had not been carried out and lived in the life of the Church. History shows that it was lived and fulfilled. When the early communities were formed, they would grow and expand and other communities would come into existence, all of them with a leader and a united faith and hope that they would truly live and worship as Jesus had taught.

And as the ages passed the structure became more and more profound and mysterious. Avery Cardinal Dulles in his most acclaimed “Models of the Church”, in 1974 and 1987, taught beautifully about the Church. He insists that the mystery of the Church is too rich and diverse to be confined to any single theological category. Rather, the Church, the parish, is: 1) an institution (a structured body, pastoral offices, bearing authority to direct and guide.) 2) a community (united to God by grace, and members united to one another in Christ.) 3) a sacrament (especially in its prayer and worship it must be the sign of Christ’s grace and our hope for the redemption he promises.) 4) a kerygmatic or herald model (it must herald, preach the Gospel and summon people to faith in Jesus.) 5) a servant (one transforming the world and impregnating human society with the values of the Kingdom of God.) But, most emphatically, the Cardinal insists that none of these models can be exaggerated to the point where the importance of any or all of the others is lessened.

And there is your parish, your beloved community where you find the prescription for the living of Christianity as defined by the Lord Himself. Therein, most importantly, you find the source of life, eternal life.

For instance, in and through Baptism, grace, the very life of God, is communicated and one is incorporated into the Church, and by that is associated with the death and resurrection of Christ unto new life, receiving a forgiveness of sin and oriented to a worship of God and the wider mission of the Church. He commanded the disciples to go to the whole world and baptize “in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. It is through your parish that you are able to participate in this.

How clearly clearly and plainly He described this (how you participate in Divine Life) in the Sixth Chapter of the Gospel of John: “. . . truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.” And it is only through, by and in the parish that this way of acting becomes possible.

Our Second Vatican Council went on to make the community, the parish even more important as it taught in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: “To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in the Church, especially in the liturgical celebration. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass . . . He is present in the sacraments . . . He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church . . . He is present, finally, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised “Where two are three are gathered together for my sake, there I am in the midst of them.”

This is the great banquet to which you have been invited, you the “living stones” of which the parish is constructed. The buildings themselves, beautiful or most plain and simple, are not the parish. Remember St. Peter in his First Letter: “. . . like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” You, the community of faith, are the parish. You have been called to a fantastic banquet. May you be blessed mightily by and through the gift of your parish that God has given you now and in the years to come.

So, as we come to the Communion rail to receive the body of Jesus Christ let us remember we are not acting as individuals at (St. John’s, Holy Family ———————-mention the name of your parish).

No, we are in communion with Catholics throughout the world. We join the Holy Father as he celebrates Mass in Rome and we join the the individual congregations everywhere throughout the rest of the world. We celebrate together the birth, the life and the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ as we all praise our God.

Homily # 2

Most of the time, when studying the readings, the gospel and the second reading attract our attention. However, today, the psalms offer a message of joy and hope. Today’s psalm, number 23, is particularly consoling.

The psalms, prior to the use of modern dating techniques, were believed to have been written by King David. Now, it is believed they may have been written by various authors at different times during the Old Testament. When they were written is not important … the message they bring to us is.

Listen, again, to the Psalm of today. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose, beside restful waters he leads me.” Think about our lives today. We all have problems, some of them very troubling. But let’s think of how blessed we are. “I shall not want”. When we compare our material lives (this applies even if you are preaching in a poor parish — see end of homily) with the lives of the majority of the people in this whole world, indeed we do not want. Are we all millionaires? No! However, how many of us have ever really been hungry? Have not eaten for 2 or 3 days? Worse, do not know when our families and children will have a nourishing meal again. On television we see the plight of many in Africa, Mexico and the Far East. Their plight is real… it’s not a movie or a commercial. What if a war were raging here and our very lives were threatened as is still the case in Kosovo, India and Pakistan?

And why are we so blessed? “The Lord is my shepherd.” We were born into a society in which almost everyone has sufficient food, has safe housing, can take advantage of wonderful educational opportunities and can even visually visit, via television, the whole world and even our whole solar system.

In psalm 139 we read, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Our loving Lord put us here. He chose the color of our skin, placed most of us in the United States and allowed us to be raised in a Christian society.

Think of Muslim North Africa. If we worshipped Jesus Christ there we could be jailed. Think of China. Christians are persecuted there. The Psalm is correct …. “Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil ; for you are at my side.”

I believe that’s is very important that the young people here this morning, those in grade school, high school and college understand just what God, and your parents, have done for you. You eat wonderful means but never pay ????? (here mention the names of 2 of the largest super market chains in the area — be specific.) You live in a comfortable, safe house but never pay the mortgage. You receive a fine education but never pay taxes or tuition.

The psalms are speaking to you …. “You anoint my head with oil … my cup overflows.” God has given you more than 90% of the people in the whole world. (You may change the percentage according to the financial conditions in your parish but realistically, that statistic is true for the majority of the our people.) Aren’t the words of Paul true when he writes, “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Jesus Christ?”

And so, the question must be asked, “What should we, each one of us, do to recognize what God has done for us?” Isn’t it only logical that we show our appreciation to our God? If we don’t, aren’t we extremely ungrateful? And, how do we show our love to God and to one another. One way is to be with the person you love. Those of us who are older can remember the days we spent in courtship. You wanted to be with the person you loved. You wanted to speak to them on the phone, write letters go on dates. The modern youth have another advantage, they can use e-mail and constantly be in touch even though they may be thousands of miles apart.

As we show appreciation to our God, do we spend time with him? Certainly we are this morning because there’s no better way to show our love that to celebrate this Mass and receive His body and blood. But this is only 1 hour, maybe 60 times a year….. 60 hours. I thought of this and wondered, “How many hours are in a year?” The answer is … 8,760. 60 hours is less than 1% of the time we time we have been given.

And so we must look beyond the Mass. Do we read his message to us … do we read the Bible? As the salesmen here wait in an office, do you have a Bible in your briefcase and do you read it?” It’s one of the most exciting books ever written. The same is true of the housewife who may pick up the children at school. Do you ever have to wait 10 minutes? Do you have a Bible in the car and read it? We can’t listen to Rush Limbaugh or rock and roll all day, can we?

What about saying 1 decade of the rosary as the family is driving to the grandparents house for dinner? It only takes about 2 1/2 minutes. Jesus said, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, I am there.” Or, read a passage from the bible, even this psalm, and then think about it as you drive to work or to your high school or college. Believe me, what you will read is beautiful, exciting and informative.

One passage from Deuteronomy may even have parenting tips. Chapter 21, verse 18 suggests that if your child doesn’t obey you, if he is a glutton and a drunkard, he should be brought before the elders and stoned to death.” Wow! Read that passage with the kids. After that it may be, Yes Mom … Yes dad!”

Truly, we have been given so much we must love our God and we must say “thanks”. Today during Communion, everyone, the young, the teens, the married and the senior citizens, think of what we have received and make a decision to spend more time with your Lord.

Why? Because He has promised even more than we have been given. Listen again to the final words of today’s psalm, “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.” That’s His promise …. but only if we keep His commandments and if we truly love him.

The Psalms describe the blessings he has given us and they promise a future life beyond our greatest hopes. However, today’s gospel ends with these words, “Many are invited but few are chosen.”

(Even in the poor parishes of our country the HOMILIST can point out how much better off we all are. A Catholic in E. Timor is in great danger. Those in our country who endure hurricanes can be wiped out. Death can strike at any time. So, rather than compare oneself with Bill Gates and his millions from MicroSoft, if one realizes we in the United States are all probably better off that 75% of all the people in the rest of the world, there is great reason to thank our Lord.)

Homily # 3

“The invited are many, the elect are few.”

On God’s mountain all people are given a banquet of rich food and fine, aged wine.  Mourning and death cease, and every tear is wiped away. Shame is dispelled; hunger is forgotten. “This is our God, in whom we hoped for salvation.” Thus Isaiah recalls the lush image of the banquet, that same feast of which the psalmist sang, with food prepared in abundance, cups running over, heads anointed with oil.  It is the banquet of God that, despite transient appetites or hungers, allows Paul to be satisfied no matter what his need or desire. “In him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything.”

In the context of heaven’s feast, the Gospel of Matthew presents a strange story, one among many instances, actual or symbolic, of dinners and banquets. In this particular case, some of the invited are uninterested in the banquet prepared for them. Others make light of it and go about their business; still others ridicule and abuse those who bring the offer. So the king sends his wards out into the streets to invite everyone, good and bad alike, into the banquet. Eventually, however the king spots a visitor who is not wearing a robe, and the poor bloke is cast into darkness.

This has never been a very attractive story for me. It seems somewhat mercurial and vindictive. Why invite people to the banquet if you are going to reject them? Were not all called and welcome?

It is understandable that those who absolutely reject Christ and the bounty of his saving banquet are not included. They do not even want to come to the party. But the rest—all those who do not resist the possibility that God calls them to the eternal feast—are welcomed.

So why are some people who are already in the promised banquet-land excluded for the feeble-sounding reason that they are improperly dressed?

What has helped me understand this odd state of affairs is C. S. Lewis’s wonderful fantasy, The Great Divorce, which he wrote to suggest that the option between heaven and hell is a radical choice we all have.

In this short, allegorical story, it turns out that a group of people, after a long bus ride, find themselves in a strange location. It is the vestibule of heaven itself, a place they have all generally wanted to go. The problem is that they must now believe that they are actually there. They must accept the fact that God really saves them.

Lewis develops a lively drama for each traveler’s life. All they need to do is “put on” the armor of salvation to receive it; yet many of them cannot bring themselves to believe that they are in banquet-land. They would rather cling to the defenses with which they have covered themselves during their lives. One self-pitying chap, unwilling to let go of the mantle of his own righteousness, just cannot bring himself to trust that he is actually within the gates of Paradise. He grips his resentments so tightly that he disappears into the small dark hole of his egotism.

Another poor soul wears a small, slimy red lizard on his shoulder, a twitching, chiding garment of shame and disappointment.  The lizard in his clothing, his self-image and self presentation to the world.  It is a symbol, Lewis leads us to believe, of some sin and of lust, which the pilgrim soul both hugs for identity and carries for self pity.

An angel approaches, offering to kill the slimy creature, which protests that if he is killed, the soul will surely lose his life and meaning.  The ghost-soul, encouraged by the angel, finally lets go of the lizard but only with trembling fear.  He gasps our a final act of trust: “God help, me God help me.”

And with that plea, a mortal struggle ensues, the lizard mightily resisting while a wondrous metamorphosis happens.   The lizard is transformed into a glorious creature.  “What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white, but with a mane of gold…The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse’s neck…in joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse’s back.  Turning in his seat he waved farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels.”  They both soar off, like shooting stars, into the mountain and sunset.

What happened to this wayfarer at the vestibule of the banquet is that he finally clothed himself in Christ rather that in his shame.  Having nothing of his own, not even his sins to cling to, he abandoned himself in the “God help me” of radical trust.

If it is God’s will that we all be saved in Jesus, then it is for us, clothed in faith, hope and live, to accept God’s will as our own.  Perhaps this is the meaning of Jesus’ parable as well as of Lewis’s.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians that if we are baptized in Christ, we must be clothed in Him.  He is the only adequate banquet garment.  And it is his love, we read in the Letter to the Colossians, that must be the clothing to complete and unify all others we wear.  Yews, every child of the earth is called to the feast.  But if any of us actually get there, it will be only because we are “all decked out” with Christ, in God.

Homily # 4

Most of us don’t like surprises. We shun the unexpected. We like to be in control so as to predict the outcome and play the odds. The housewife is quite put out with her husband if he brings home an unexpected guest for dinner. Several years ago a smash movie told the story of a young, liberated daughter who brought home her boyfriend to meet her parents. No big deal. However, the girl is white and the young man is black!

Corporate America has taken note of our lack of surprises. A well known hotel chain promises you’ll love staying with them because the “best surprise is no surprise.” We are more at home with the scouts — be prepared — than with the explorer. We want to remain in our comfort zone and move down the well-traveled path.

A good deal being uncomfortable with the Judeo-Christian story is the realization that life is just one big, ongoing surprise. If you don’t like surprises, you better not sign on with Yahweh and Jesus. This is just not the covenant relationship for you. Better to be a member of the Baal group or carry your membership card with the Pharisees.

At all cost, avoid Yahweh and Jesus. You never know what this crazy (by our all too human standards) God and his Son are going to do and ask of us. The God who dared to become one like us has the nerve to invite us to grow in holiness and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And God invites us now.

Well, maybe we can grow to like surprises. Most of the people around us can share the ride and get caught up in the adventure of faith.  Our friends, family, and fellow worshippers can be called upon to lend support. Unfortunately (at least for us) God has bigger plans and greater surprises than we can imagine. We can’t pick and choose who comes to the Lord’s mountain; is part of the covenant; and shows up at the banquet.

All kinds of people are gathered by the Lord. Human standards and cultural expectations melt into air. We find ourselves sitting next to the most unexpected of guests. And we are the unexpected masterpiece of creation discloses the divine artist. Just as tracks in the forest give us some idea of the presence of the animal pursued, so also the traces of the divine in the cosmos open our eyes to his presence.

For the biblical mind, one of the easiest ways to sense God’s presence is through hospitality. Abraham once received a guest who told him that his aged wife would bear a child to be named Isaac. The stranger, to whom he showed hospitality, turned out to be God. In our opening scripture reading today, we observe the lady’s hospitality to the prophet Elisha. God experienced her courtesy in the person of the prophet. A year later he gave this barren woman the gift of a baby boy.

Jesus tells us this day that a cup of water given to a stranger is given to him. Hospitality both to those in need, to strangers and to those whom we call friends is the easiest way to get a glimpse of Christ. No simpler method of practicing the presence of God can be found than to serve others with welcome hospitality. The Catholics of Austria like to say, “The guest is Christ.” Thus these simple acts of kindness both make others feel better and also afford us the basic possibility of the religious experience of God.

Maybe we are not expert at reading the hints of God’s presence in nature and history. Perhaps we have no time for that. But we are always near people to whom we can show a little courtesy. Don’t bother looking at the sun. It hurts your eyes. Take a look at the people around you. The Son of God is there waiting to be cared for. He won’t hurt your eyes. Quite the opposite. He will warm your heart.

Homily # 5

Today’s parable focuses on those people who have refused an invitation to come to a banquet. There are three categories of people who refused and they are instructive for us.

First, there are those who simply refuse outright of their own accord. They want no part of the banquet, no part of discipleship, no part of god period. Their lives are evil.

So we can dismiss them. But there are two other categories of people who also didn’t come to the banquet, not because they are evil, although at time they may do evil things, but because some servants the master sent out to issue the invitations did not do so. Today we should reflect on them.

The first group are what we might call the segregated. There’s an off Broadway play called construction that might shed some light on them. The play opens with a group of people who are gathered in a kind of other-worldly place. The actors don’t know where they are or how they got there or, more importantly what they’re supposed to do.

Then someone notices that on stage is a lot of building materials, so they conclude that they are supposed to build something, although nobody knows what.

Somebody suggests a swimming pool, another a club house. But as they’re discussing this, someone hears a sound in the distance, the sound of other people. After listening for awhile, they exclaim, “we don’t know who they are or what they want.” Someone cries out, “we can’t afford to take chances. We should protect ourselves.” So they decide that this construction material is meant for them to build a wall to protect themselves from those strangers.

After they work on the wall for some time, they look up and see a stranger headed their way. The stranger tells them he is a master builder, not only that, but he plans under his arms. The stranger looking at their wall, tells them they got it all wrong. As he spreads the plans out he says, “See, you’re not supposed to build a wall around yourselves, you’re supposed to build a bridge to the other people and invite them in.”

The point is that some don’t come to the Lord’s banquet because we exclude them by walls of our attitudes, our superiority, and simply by not inviting them. Good news by it’s nature is to be shared.

The second group that could be at the banquet but often aren’t, are the labeled, those we have pigeonholed and keep there. There’s a story that illustrates this.

It’s about a man everyone called old Governor Campbell. He was the undisputed chief of the village bums in a little southwestern town.

He hung around the courthouse, knew many of the merchants and lawyers. He sponged quarters from them. With the money he’d get something to eat, but more to drink, for he was the town drunkard.

In those days the rival people used to sweep through those little towns with great regularity, and each time old Governor Campbell would go to the meeting and get converted. The news would spread from the courthouse to the barbershop and local bars that old Governor Campbell got religion again. They would tell it as a great joke.

There would be old Governor Campbell with his clothes pressed, hair combed, face shaven, standing erect on the street, full of pride for a few days. But never beyond a few days. Soon you would see the stubble growing back, the hair uncombed, and he would be back in his role as the town drunk.

People would slip another quarter in his hand with a wink in their eye and at the courthouse and barbershop would say things like, “that’s the trouble with religion. Those preachers keep trying to convert people like old Governor Campbell and there he is again, stiff as a Billy goat. He’ll never change.

And they never realized that the trouble wasn’t with religion. It was with them. When they laughed at the old derelict, they became a part of his tragedy. They didn’t believe he could change and they didn’t want him to believe it either.

His trouble wasn’t that he got converted too often. His trouble is the same as ours. He simply doesn’t get converted often enough. The trouble is that we’ve labeled him and keeping him labeled satisfies our sense of superiority. It’s easier to ridicule than to encourage. If the banquet has missing persons, the parable asks, are we to blame?

If that weren’t enough to think about, here’s a final zinger to the parable. When it isn’t filled with people who should be there=some of whom, as we have seen, we are responsible for- the master tells his servants to go out and get others. The good, the bad, the ugly. In short there will be some people at the heavenly banquet we’ll be surprised to see.

A man tells this story, “It was out a bakery on Fairfax avenue that I first saw him do it. As I sat in my car watching the crowds go by, my attention was drawn to a poorly dressed woman with two forlorn children, pushing an old supermarket cart with bundles of bags and rags and whatever else goes with living from hand to mouth. I saw this man that I didn’t like a bit pass her, as he did he called out something to get her attention. I didn’t hear what he said but when he turned, he pretended to stoop down and pick up some money. It was green and how much it was I don’t know. He motioned to the woman that she had dropped it. He quickly put it into her child’s hand and left.

It was more than a month later when I was standing at the checkout counter that I saw him again. He was standing behind an obviously poor person who was counting her money to pay for milk and bread. He didn’t see me, but I saw him bend sown and he came up holding a twenty dollar bill, all the while insisting that the woman had dropped it. She protested it wasn’t hers, but everybody in line urged her to take it, and so she did.

The man concludes, “you know, when anyone is lucky enough to see an act of compassion in the crowd, it kind of makes for good feelings. And I don’t even like the man. In fact I hate him. But the suspicion is that he’s going to be at the banquet and I’m not.

Which group of people will we be in?


Wide open

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:34:00 10/12/2008

ACCORDING to a text message I received, there are three kinds of wives: The pessimist who thinks her husband will never change; the optimist who hopes her husband will change in the future; and the realist who simply changes her husband!

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In today’s Gospel (Mt. 22, 1-14) we see in the Parable of the Wedding Feast that God is the optimist who invites and continues to invite His people to the feast. However, He is also a realist who has the freedom and sovereignty to change His decisions and plans. In other words, He can neither be controlled nor dictated to by anything in us, nor by any one of us. Generosity is His prerogative, not His obligation. Abuse can only come from our side, not from His side.

* * *

God’s goodness and generosity cannot be limited according to our own standards. Nor can He be confined to a particular race, people, culture or religion. For those who still think that they are special and “above the rest” when it comes to God, hello! We are all the same in God’s eyes. We are all special in God’s heart.

* * *

Beware of self-righteousness in any form. The best way to approach God is to approach Him in humility. The truth is, all of us need God’s mercy. A proud person approaches God knowingly or unknowingly through the road of merits or achievements. A more realistic way is to approach Him on the road of mercy.

* * *

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Sunday. This observance is meant to remind us that God is in them, in their cultures and values. In fact, indigenous peoples are more Christian than many so-called Christians. We can learn a lot, as in “a lot,” from them, especially “respect, understanding, compassion and love.”

* * *

In the Philippines, we have Divine Word Missionaries (SVDs) working with indigenous peoples in Abra, Cagayan, Mountain Province, Pampanga, Mindoro, Mindanao and Palawan. As seminarians, we spent many summers with them. One of the things I learned from the Mangyans of Mindoro is their being “receivers,” not “getters.” They don’t grab or get something that is being given to them. They just open their hands and receive gratefully. Our government leaders and officials could surely learn a lot from them.

* * *

We take note too of the deep respect and responsible care our indigenous peoples show for mother nature. They don’t hunt more than they can eat; neither do they get from the earth more than what they need. Shame on us who see the world with eyes so full of greed. Double the shame on the moneyed and the powerful who capitalize on little people’s needs.

* * *

The kingdom of heaven featured as a wedding feast or as a banquet is a story we have to tell and tell again and again if only to give joy and hope to our people who are burdened by earthly cares and problems. It’s a happy story. Too often, we tell and replay the sad story. We should tell our people more stories that talk of surprises and possibilities; stories that are forward-looking and help them to move on. After all, isn’t our Gospel all about the good news?

* * *

Speaking of good stories, we thank God for the Galoc Oil Field in Palawan from which 20,000 barrels of oil a day can be pumped now. This would cover 6 percent of daily oil demand in our country. Yes, God is a generous God. Our country is a blessed country. Our people are hard working and good. I wish the same of the above could be said of our leaders. Let us continue to plead to God to relieve us of our sufferings, which are brought about by our poverty of good leaders in our land.

* * *

This Saturday and every Saturday thereafter, we will be on dzMM (630 AM band and Teleradyo) from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with our program “Light Moments” to reflect on the Sunday (next day’s) Gospel, together with a guest. Our guest this Saturday is Sonia Roco. Prior to her, we had a fisherman, a Protestant pastor, a priest, an actress, etc. Yes, none of us has a monopoly of God, but each one of us has a feature of the face of God.

* * *

We will be in the Divine Word College of Bangued, Abra this coming Oct. 19 for a 9 a.m.-12 nn Mission Talk and Recollection. Happy to go back to my first parish assignment as a young missionary in 1983. Happy too, on this our Philippine SVD Centennial year, to go back where it all began with the arrival of our first two missionaries Father Beckert and Father Scheirmann, in 1909. The work goes on, the work of inviting people to go to the wedding feast goes on. Remember, you are invited. And please, pass on the invitation to others too!

* * *

Remember what the dentist tells you when you go to him for treatment? “Open, open wide!” Let us pray that we become more open-minded and wide-hearted as we grow. Amen.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to become like you; to become open-minded and a wide-hearted person. Amen.


PAANYAYA AT PAGTANGGAP: Reflection for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A – October 9, 2011

Linggo na naman! Magsisimba ka ba? Baka naman katulad ka ng taong ito sa kuwento: “Pare, Linggo ngayon… magsimba ka naman!” Sabi ng kumpare nya sa kanya. “Hmmp…! Dami kong gagawin, mga anak at misis ko na lang!” Sinabihan din sya ng kanyang mga kasama sa trabaho: “Simba tayo bukas ha?” Ang kanyang sagot: “Hmmmp…! Ang misis at ang mga anak ko na lang! Me pupuntahan pa ako.” Pinaalalahanan din sya ng kanyang kura paroko: “Anak, Linggo bukas. Magsimba ka.” Sagot n’ya: “Padre, wala naman mawawala sa parokya kung di ako pupunta. Hmmmp! Ang misis at ang mga anak ko na lang!” Nagkataong namasyal minsan ang pamilya. Sa kasamaang palad ay nadisrasya ang kanilang sinasakyan. Nakita na lamang nila ang kanilang sarili sa harapan ng pintuan ng langit. Sabi ni San Pedro: “Pamilya Dimagiba… pasok sa loob!” Nang s’ya na ang papasok ay hinarang sya ni San Pedro. “Oooops… san ang punta mo?” “Sa loob! Kasama ng pamilya ko!” Sagot n’ya. Sabi ni San Pedro” “Hmmmp… ang misis at anak mo na lang!” Marahil isang kwento lamang ngunit kapupulutan natin ng mahalagang aral. Patuloy ang Diyos na nag-aanyaya sa ating makibahagi sa kanyang “piging” ngunit kalimitan ay wala tayong panahon para sa Kanyang paanyaya! Ang dami nating dahilan. Pero tulad nga ng kasabihan: “Kung gusto mo may paraan, kung ayaw mo may dahilan!” Kung ilalapat natin sa Ebanghelyo ay makikita nating ayaw lang talaga ng mga taong naimbitahan na dumalo sa kasalan. Marami silang dahilang ibinigay ngunit kung iisa lang naman ang gusto nilang sabihin: “Wala akong panahon para d’yan!” Hinalintulad ni Jesus ang mga punong saserdote at matatanda ng bayan sa mga taong ito. Sila ang unang naimbitahan na makibahagi sa Kaharian ng Diyos ngunit dahil sa katigasan ng kanilang ulo ay ilang ulit nilang tinanggihan ang paanyaya ng Diyos. Marami sa mga propeta ay kanilang inusig at ipinapatay. Kaya nga’t ibinaling ng Diyos ang Kanyang paanyaya sa mga “Hentil”. Ibinaling ni Jesus ang paanyaya sa atin! Ang katanungan ngayon ay: “Tatanggihan mo rin ba?” Nagsabi na tayo ng “Oo” noong tayo ay nabinyagan at nakumpilan. Ngunit sa tuwing nilalabag natin ang utos ng Diyos at hindi tayo nagpapakita ng pagiging mabuting kristiyano ay isang masakit na pagtanggi ang ating ginagawa sa kanyang imbitasyon. Ilang beses na rin marahil na atin siyang iniwasan. Ang dahilan, halos pareho rin: marami pa akong gagawing mas mahalaga! Kung ang Diyos ay importante sa ating buhay ay bibigyan natin siya ng puwang sa ating buhay, handa tayong maglaan ng oras para sa Kanya! Isang praktikal na aplikasyon nito ay ang ating ginagawang pagsisimba tuwing Linggo. Sa ating buhay, marami tayong ginagawa. Hindi tayo mauubusan ng dapat gawin. Huwag sana nating ipagpalit ang ilang sandali na dapat ay para sa Diyos. Sa loob ng isang araw ay may 24 na oras. Sa isang Linggo ay 168. Ang sabi ng Diyos kunin mo na ang 167 at yung isa… ibigay mo naman sa akin. Ang “suwapang” mo naman kung di mo ito maibigay sa Kanya! Baka isang araw kapag nasa harap na tayo ng pintuan ng langit at nagpupumilit na pumasok ay magulat na lang tayo at marinig ang mga salitang: “Hmmmmmp… Wala kang lugar dito! Sila na lang!”




Free but not ‘unli’

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:29 pm | Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Did you hear the latest rumor – about someone who is three months “on the way”?… Santa Claus! He will be here in three months!

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 22, 1-14), we hear about a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. Those invited did not come for one reason or another, so in the end he threw open his gates to all, and his hall was filled with guests. If there were Filipinos in that crowd, I am sure the place would have been more filled up, what with our penchant for spreading rumors or tips to our kababayans!

* * *

Rumor aside, the Gospel today speaks of general amnesty. God, in His mercy and love, is a God who forgives and accepts us. His heart is so big, and there is room for everyone. However, the Gospel ends with the statement: “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” So there is going to be a selection or elimination process, after all? Yes, the gates of the Kingdom is open to all peoples, (i.e., not exclusive to those who belong to the House of Israel), but anyone who seeks it must “qualify” by faith and good deeds. In other words, it is free, but not unlimited.

* * *

Aside from rumor-mongering, we Filipinos love free rides, free loads, or extras. Who wouldn’t love freebies anyway, for that matter? We have this thing called sale or bargain mentality. Recently, we saw this in the “unli” promo of the phone networks offering unlimited texts and calls, or restaurants offering unlimited rice. While we rejoice in the gratuity of grace, we must not forget the reality and necessity of hard work. As the epic of “Juan Tamad” teaches us, we must not wait for the guava fruit to fall down from the tree. We must go for it, or at least, meet it half-way.

* * *

Last Oct. 1, 2011, I experienced the reality of faith and hard work among our people during our Walk with God to Manaoag. It was typhoon signal No. 2 in Pangasinan, but we proceeded with our 13-kilometer, three-hour walk from Urdaneta to Manaoag anyway. It was a walk not only for those strong in body, but also for those strong in faith. We were drenched in the drizzle, but the heavens held the winds and the rain until after the Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag. It was, literally, a walk with God, a walk with fellow-believers in Mama Mary’s love, a walk with faith in our hearts.

* * *

Last Oct. 4 was the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Someone commented that there is a “Franciscan” in each one of us. Whether already operational or still awaiting to be discovered, let us make real in our lives the virtues of this simple saint, especially his poverty, obedience and chastity. Let us also imitate his zeal for the poor, his joyful giving and his love for Mother Earth and nature.

* * *

Speaking of nature, the recent floods in our country remind us that we should not abuse Mother Earth, and that we should be responsible for each other. Those who made money at the expense of the poor and the underprivileged should repent and make reparation. Illegal loggers, unscrupulous developers, government officials, please take note, and be warned.

* * *

There are people who experience real and extraordinary hardships nowadays, on top of their already existing ordinary hardships because of the recent floods. Please reach out, share. As God has been generous to us, let us also be concretely generous to one another.

* * *

“A Million Roses for the World” was launched yesterday (Saturday) at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). It is a campaign for all Filipinos living in the Philippines and in other parts of the world to pray one million rosaries a day for world peace, with each day dedicated to the intentions of a certain country. The inspiration is from Pope Pius IX who once said: “Give me an army praying one million rosaries a day and we will conquer the world.” As Fr. Patrick Peyton of the Family Rosary Crusade put it: “A world at prayer is a world at peace.”

* * *

Sienna College Quezon City High School Batch ’92 is sponsoring a bingo social on Oct. 15 at the SM City, North Edsa for the benefit of the Aeta community in Porac, Pampanga. For particulars please contact Karen Gino Keeler (09175366018), Mhae de Ramos Lusk (09062102384), or Rose Orbos (09178801252).

* * *

“There Be Dragons” is a movie about forgiveness woven around the life of St. Jose Maria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, and his childhood friend Manolo whose lives took different paths during the Spanish civil war in the 1930s. One became a priest, and one became a soldier. The movie will have its premier showing at the Mall of Asia, Pasay City on Oct. 15 at 7 p.m., and regular showing in November. “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.”

* * *

Fr. Jake Ferrer, SVD, our Filipino missionary in Japan, shares this story about this “little missionary,” Yoichi Ishizaka, who quietly and cheerfully endured leukemia but touched the lives of many Japanese children. During his playtime in the pediatric ward, this little boy would encourage them to pray to “Papa Jesus” and “Mama Mary.” On the day he passed on to the eternal embrace of the Father, he told his mom, “I am happy to receive Jesus in my heart!”

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, thank you for your invitation to your heart. Help me to do my part. Amen.



Word Alive

God’s Invitation


October 8, 2011, 12:24am

MANILA, Philippines — A young couple had invited many guests to their daughter’s birthday dinner. At the table, the hostess turned to her six-year-old daughter and asked, “Would you like to say the prayer?” “I don’t know what to say,” the girl replied.

“Just say what you hear Mama say,” the mother answered. The little girl bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these many people to dinner?”

The gospel of this 28th Sunday speaks about an invitation too, but the host in the parable was not regretting that so many came but rather nobody came.

* * *

In Jesus’ parable, the king (God) had made elaborate preparations for a wedding banquet and then invited guests, but they all begged off for more “important” matters: One went to his estate, another to his business (read Mt 22:1-14). Jesus refers to the wedding banquet as God’s kingdom (heaven).

Christ’s parable is a thinly veiled accusation against the Jewish people of the day who had been invited by God to be his Chosen People, but they contemptuously refused. Today the parable serves as a WARNING for us Christians as the new Chosen People who are invited.

* * *

To be fair, we have not ignored God’s invitation; otherwise we would not be baptized Christians and would not be fulfilling our Sunday obligations. But we’re still on our way to the great banquet. And the danger for us is that we may allow the affairs of this world, our business, our pleasures to blur or blot out our vision of the real goal in life.

* * *

There was a couple who were so engrossed in their business of manufacturing big volumes of clothes for export that their family suffered. Their high school daughter got pregnant by a guy they hardly knew and their son had started taking drugs. Their business was all that mattered so that even on Sundays, they had to work. And because the couple had no more time for one another, eventually their marriage broke up.

To paraphrase our Lord’s words: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but suffers the loss of his family!” People can be so busy making a living that they fail to make life itself.

* * *

Our Lord invites us to live a HOLISTIC or balanced life which takes into consideration one’s spiritual well-being. God invites us to His Eucharistic banquet for spiritual nourishment and to have time for prayer.

God is not taking away our time for work, recreation, and worldly pursuits. What He is asking is that we should not forget or neglect our spiritual needs.

* * *

Tomorrow is INDIGENOUS FILIPINOS SUNDAY.  This event is designated by the Church to focus attention on our oft-forgotten, neglected – if not exploited – indigenous brethren. In dealing with them, we would do well to regard them not only as genuine Filipinos but as children of God.

Christ said: “Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it for me.”

Without this Christian attitude, it would be easy to abuse and exploit these lowly and largely illiterate brethren.



See Today’s Readings:  Cycle A

Back to: Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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