Joyful Sign of the Kingdom

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) 2020

Readings: Is 25:6-10; Ps 22; Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt 22:1-14

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next, he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited,” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He dispatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out onto the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

MANY Catholics think that the Church today is at its lowest. According to figures from the 2016 study of National Centre for Pastoral Research, the percentage of the overall Catholic population that attends Mass regularly is at 11.8 per cent. Many have different ideas as to the cause of this apparent decline. Some connect it to the child sex abuse scandal. Some to enduring clericalism and sexism within the Church. Still, some link it to the Church’s inability to adapt to the current culture while at the other end of the spectrum, the blame lies in too much accommodation to the culture.

We can debate the validity of these points. But let us stop for a moment and think. Maybe the reason is actually much nearer. Maybe it is us. If we are to ask someone who is not a Christian to describe us, what words do you think we would hear? Would we hear words like joyful? Good-humoured? Fun to be with? Supportive? Many Christians are probably marked by these things—and I can think of several parishioners even as I speak.

But let’s face it, joyful, good-humoured, fun-to-be-with are not the words that would come to the lips of outsiders to describe us and probably even from Christians themselves. In fact, if Jesus did not describe the Kingdom of God as a wedding feast, then joy, humour, and fun need not be marks of Christians. But Jesus did describe the Kingdom that way. Yes, the world is a place of sin and suffering. But it is also the gateway to the Kingdom of God—the kingdom that Jesus described as a banquet, a feast to which everyone, both good and bad is invited.

In interviews about the popular YouTube mini-series “The Chosen”, the people, especially the youth, were amazed or surprised at the depiction of Jesus as a “fun person” to be with. Most say it was far from their imagination to think that Jesus would crack jokes, smiles a lot, even dance in a wedding feast—having fun with his friends. They thought Jesus was all solemn if not grim. But think about it, who would hang out with a person like that, especially in this era when people decide which group to join not by the logic and truthfulness of their beliefs but by how welcome they feel or how comfortable it is to belong in a particular group or community? Why do we think people were drawn to Jesus? Maybe the depiction of Jesus in “The Chosen” is closer to the truth. Jesus is the visible face of God. If God is life itself; if God is the GOOD itself and the life that God offers—the kingdom—is that of a wedding banquet, where everybody and not just the couple, is happy; everybody having fun, shouldn’t we look more like revellers than anything else?

More of "The Chosen" Coming Soon
Jesus is having fun with his friends, wedding at Cana (The Chosen)

So, yes, we must be joyful people—be determinedly happy people because it is our ‘duty’ to be a sign of the Kingdom. If we do this, maybe other people would see this in us.

Why is it then we seem to be uncomfortable with being happy? Why is it being joyful seems too alien to us? Why we seem to prefer being grim, serious, and all fire and brimstone? Perhaps we are not revelling Christians because we either do not allow the Lord to show us not only what is in store for us, but what we already have. Perhaps we are not revelling Christians because despite the joyous gift God has given us and His generous invitation; an invitation that does not depend on how good or bad we are beforehand, we presume—no, we insist—on entering the banquet on our own terms, without any change at all—just like the person in the gospel who fail to dress appropriately.

This implies that just like the person in the gospel, we, too, cannot see the difference between being outside or inside the wedding hall as honoured guests. Worse, we may be deliberately demeaning the significance of God’s invitation to share eternal life with Him. If this is the case, how can we be joyous?

Scott Hahn quote: A joyless Catholic is the devil's best tool. A joyful...

So how can we be a sign of the joy of the Kingdom? Maybe the first step is to open our eyes to the wonders around us and realise that they are all gifts from a Father who is madly in love with us—and not just the negative things of the world. Next is probably not to try saving the world—or the Church from the forces of evil—by ourselves. This is arrogance and our way of putting ourselves at the centre, controlling everything and not trusting God. Yes, we do our bit—we try to be worthy guests in God’s banquet, but it is still God’s show. And in the end, God has the final word.

Lastly, let us enjoy our time with our fellow Christians and Jesus himself. When we conclude our celebration this morning, why not give each member of our family a big hug, a big kiss and spend some time to enjoy their company as Jesus surely enjoyed the company of his friends! We may as well get used to being joyful since Jesus is inviting us to spend eternity at a joyous banquet with him. So be happy! Be joyful people! And… spread the joy!

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