Fr. Frank McDevitt is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Aurora, Ont.
When I worked in Barrie, Ont., a few times every week I passed the Hiway Pentecostal Church which had a large sign on its exterior wall that summarized the Christian faith. It was a summary that extended to five words: “It is about a relationship.”
When we come to this Sunday’s extraordinary Gospel, this is a fair summary: “It is about a relationship.”
One of the ways to understand the parables is to see them as answers to the questions being asked by those around Jesus.
On occasion the question remains in the Scripture, such as, “Who is my neighbour?” To which Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan.
Sometimes, like in this weekend’s Gospel, the questions no longer exist in the text, so we have to imagine what was being asked.
“What is expected of us if we hear the call of the Kingdom?”
“Who is the Kingdom for?”
In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable of a king who was hosting a wedding banquet and of those who were malicious in their ambivalence and who were willing to kill the messenger rather than accept the invitation.
Jesus says, no bother, for there is room for everybody. And everybody means everybody.
Then he included in the parable a curious adjunct about a man without the wedding robe. What is already a harsh story takes another turn.
An invitation to the feast is an invitation into a relationship with Christ. We are to put on Christ, to use St. Paul’s words. In this parable, the man without the wedding robe has not put on Christ and therefore is not worthy of the Kingdom.
We cannot sit there in the midst of the wonder of Christ and act as if there is no need for personal transformation.
Invited to the Feast
The common thread of all of the readings today is eating. A good Thanksgiving theme.
The anticipated Kingdom for Isaiah is this feast of rich food filled with marrow and the well-aged wine strained clear. But it is a feast with an ominous hint to it. For the guests come covered in a mourning shroud.
In good time, the shroud will be removed.
Tears will be wiped away.
Shame will be taken away.
For us who are Christians, the teaching of Isaiah is a sign post to Jesus: the shroud that is cast over all people is removed by the sacrificial act of Christ who gives himself to us on this mountain called Calvary.
To echo the words of St. Paul, “My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to the riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
When we share in Eucharist, we proclaim the death of Christ until he comes again.
In the Eucharist, each of us is taken to Isaiah’s mountain where Christ shows the ultimate bounty of life.
In every Eucharist, we return to that mountain.
We Catholic people are called in baptism, but we are formed in Eucharist.
I can witness in my priestly life the singular bond that is ours in Eucharist. In all that we do it is Eucharist that creates and recreates us again and again.
In Eucharist on Christmas Eve we declare that Christmas has arrived or at Easter that Christ is risen. Eucharist gives shape to the joy of our weddings and to the grief of our funerals.
Eucharist has forged us as a people.
Isaiah talks of shrouds and tears. And promises of them being taken away.
The power of Eucharist is that not only are we forged into a people, we are sent out into the world. To look, to act and to be a sign of the living Christ.
In the face of violence, we claim our communion in Christ.
In the face of poverty, we act for the good of others.
And in a world where violence and human struggle seems to be our constant fare, we search for the signs of hope.
We are called to be Eucharist. We are people formed in the Body and Blood of Christ. We live fully the richness of Christ’s love in our lives.
In the end, it is about a relationship.
As people formed in Eucharist, let us not live in the shadows. Let us put on the robe of celebration and live well and fully every day in the presence of Christ.
This reflection is based on the readings 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Isiah 25. 6-10a; Philippians 4. 12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22. 1-14.