Central idea: The desirability of salvation. Doctrine: Heaven, hell, and purgatory. Practical application: The spiritual works of mercy.
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Central idea: The desirability of salvation
First Reading Is 25:6-10
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.
- Isaiah conveys God’s promise of salvation to the Jews and to “all peoples.”
- Salvation will come from the mountain of the Lord, Jerusalem, and the house of the Lord, the temple.
- What is this promise?
- The best food and drink.
- The end to the ignorance, error, fear, suspicion, and hostility of peoples to one another: “the veil that veils all peoples.”
- The destruction of “death forever.”
- Consolation for past suffering.
- The removal of any reproach so as to be held in the highest esteem.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
R. 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.
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.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
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.
- As Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel reading shows, salvation can be seen as the greatest party every thrown, but salvation can also be seen as peace, in the quiet, secure life described in Psalm 23.
- So to be united to Christ, to live in his house, to be a member of the Church, is like being the sheep of the best shepherd imaginable.
- Due to having this shepherd, the sheep enjoys rest, peace, protection, refreshment, never being lost, no fear of evil ever falling, encouragement, honor, and abundance.
- Instead of being followed by wolves, jackals, or other enemies wanting to devour him, “only goodness and kindness follow” the sheep of this shepherd.
Reading 2 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.
- In the Gospel reading we will hear the seeming irrationality of the king who casts the guest out of the wedding feast for not wearing a wedding garment. But the reason the king would have been justified was that the king himself supplied the garment to those admitted. In the same way, God fully supplies whatever we need to achieve our end of salvation.
- Being fully supplied to achieve salvation does not preclude being in need, as St. Paul experienced many times.
- The “secret” that St. Paul learned for living the gospel in all circumstances was to rely on Christ, “him who strengthens me.”
- Christ disclosed this “secret” in his first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:3).
- Poverty of spirit means knowing your need for God. Jesus Christ himself was poor in spirit through his kenosis or self-emptying, as we just heard again in last Sunday’s second reading.
- Being in need reminds us to turn to the Lord who is himself the Kingdom of Heaven.
- We can imitate Christ’s poverty of spirit through detachment.
- If we use the things we have to love God and our neighbor, we are detached from those things and have poverty of spirit, and we will do a lot of good in the process.
Gospel 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.”
- In this parable, Our Lord gives the religious leaders of Israel a stern warning to move them to listen to his gospel.
- The king is God the Father. The son is Jesus Christ. The wedding feast is the salvation his gospel announces. The servants are the disciples of Christ. The invited guests are the chief priests and elders of the people. The behavior of the leaders of Israel is to refuse the gospel, to ignore it, and to mistreat and even kill the disciples. The punishment is the destruction of Israel and specifically Jerusalem. The “whomever you find” is unrighteous Jews and the Gentiles. The wedding garment is repentance and conversion. The place outside is damnation. The wedding guest who is cast out is the follower of Christ who turns away into sin. Thus the parable ends with a warning to us disciples of Christ.
- Our Lord also provides us an image of heaven and of hell.
- Heaven is like the best party given by the best party-giver. People are all together, feasting, singing and dancing, wearing splendid garments. But in hell one is bound hand and foot, in the dark, alone. Instead of singing there is wailing. Instead of eating and drinking there is grinding of teeth.
Doctrine: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell
- Article 12 of the first part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the passage in the Creed, “I believe in life everlasting.” After this life there are only three conditions and one of them is temporary.
- In the prayer of commendation said for the dying Christian, the minister says, “May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God in Zion” (CCC 1020).
- “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness,” a “communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed” (CCC 1024).
- “This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: ‘no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.’” (CCC 1027)
- Purgatory is the condition of “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified . . . undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” The persons “are indeed assured of their of their eternal salvation.” (CCC 1030)
- “We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves” (CCC 1033).
- “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell’” (CCC 1033).
- “The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (CCC 1035).
- “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[,] . . . an urgent call to conversion” (CCC 1036).
- It is not God’s or his Church’s will that anyone go to hell. For that, “a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end” (CCC 1037).
- This is perhaps why the wedding guest without a wedding garment “was reduced to silence.”
Practical Application: The Spiritual Works of Mercy
- Spiritual works of mercy are acts by which we become instruments of God’s kindness to others. These are ways we cooperate with God’s grace and fulfill the petition “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
- Question 222 of the Baltimore Catechism sets out the traditional seven “chief spiritual works of mercy.” They are: “To admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive all injuries, and to pray for the living and the dead.”
- Pointing out to someone that he is doing moral wrong costs us something, because it can earn us his hatred and even his revenge, but this admonishment can also save his soul.
- It is not just the unchurched that need instruction in the truths of the faith. Catholics have largely been denied doctrinal formation for the past two generations.
- To counsel the doubtful requires the virtue of prudence, prayer, and the assistance of the Holy Spirit, lest we be the “blind leading the blind” (Mt 15:13-14).
- To comfort the sorrowful implies we have a relationship with others, are available for them, and know how to express compassion.
- To bear wrongs patiently and to forgive all injuries give others the chance to come to their senses. Likely we have inflicted wrongs on others and injured others, either deliberately or inadvertently, and never want these to happen again. We hope the same for others.
- All of us can petition God for others in their wants and needs when it is impossible for us to supply them ourselves. For those who have died, what more can we say than “May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God in Zion.”
- The spiritual works of mercy obviously benefit others but they also greatly help the one who practices them. Some of them—like instructing the ignorant—may be out of our reach while others—like forgiving injuries—are always within it (New Advent).
The Homiletic Directory recommends these Catechism points and themes for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
- CCC 543-546: Jesus invites sinners, but demands conversion
- CCC 1402-1405, 2837: the Eucharist is the foretaste of the Messianic Banquet