Rejoicing and communion with God
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 8, 2023
As we celebrate this Sunday, we hear Jesus in the Gospel say that the Kingdom of Heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.
Images can be powerful. Think of the twin towers on 9/11, or the American flag, or a mountain peak. That’s why good communicators use images carefully. They craft their messages using evocative and powerful images — a great cresting wave, a fortress, a great battle scene.
Jesus Christ is a master communicator. In fact, he’s the master communicator and in today’s Gospel he’s deploying a moving image that his audience, his hearers, would have been familiar with and immediately understood the image of a wedding feast. This was part of their common experience. Of course, you go to weddings. We still do this in our own day in our own way. But the people that Jesus is telling this parable to, the chief priest and the elders and really his general audience would have been very familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures, where the wedding feast is an image of rejoicing and communion with God. It’s a prominent theme in the Scriptures. We see that background here because the church includes it, with the Gospel passage and our first reading from Isaiah, chapter 25. Our first reading this Sunday which describes the salvation of God’s people and portrays it as a joyful feast or banquet on God’s holy mountain. Heaven, salvation is a joyful feast of unending union of God and his people.
The Lord tells, as I was saying, this parable to the chief priest and the elders of the people, in the temple precincts in Matthew’s Gospel. The parable of the wedding feast which follows up another parable he told them in the same setting last Sunday, the parable of vineyard. He’s challenging the chief priests and the elders of the people to see that they’re way off track. They should be the faithful stewards of God’s vineyard, but they’re not. They who are the invited guests to the wedding banquet that God has issued a formal invitation to and given responsibility over God’s people, are instead choosing their farms and their businesses or worse they’ll conspire to mistreat God’s servant and even kill his son instead of accepting God’s invitation to communion of salvation.
Of course, it’s easy to say, “Well, those corrupt leaders back then 2000 years ago they should have gotten it straight,” but of course the Church put this parable before us today. It’s about us too. The church has now, and God has now, in the 21st century, invited us to God’s holy banquet, his marriage feast. And that invitation comes to us in our day on two different levels. The first one is in the present. We’re living now in the Church’s Liturgy. There’s a liturgical dimension to this invitation.
The second level is a future eschatological dimension. That’s a big word eschatological. It comes from the Greek word escaton which means “the end.” So, what will happen at the end of human history? The present liturgical level is the Mass. What we’re celebrating right now together. And that eschatological is the ultimate and perfect communion with God in heaven that the Mass is a foretaste of. Of course, we’re not in heaven yet and so let’s concentrate first on the heavenly banquet as it comes to us in the Mass and the Eucharist.
It’s absolutely true that heaven comes to us in the Mass. The Eucharist is heaven and on earth, heaven touching earth. That’s why the Church says it’s the source and summit of the whole life of the Church. There’s nothing more important that we do together than celebrating the Eucharist because it is that wedding banquet, that perfect communion with God in the celebration of heaven come to earth in the Church’s Liturgy. It’s holy Communion with God and with each other.
So, the first lesson that we need to relearn in our time, and that’s why we’re engaged in Eucharistic Revival, is how important the Mass is. How the Eucharist is heaven touching earth. It is that heavenly banquet that we participate in through the Church’s Liturgy. It is Jesus Christ himself, in his death and resurrection given to us as food and drink — his body, blood, soul, and divinity. There’s nothing more important in the life of the Church. Now we need to get that into our bones again and share that with our brothers and sisters who have become disconnected from coming to Sunday Mass. This is the heart of the Church’s life together and if we don’t get that we don’t understand how even now we can even experience this profound communion with God in Christ our Savior.
And the second lesson this Sunday is about that wedding garment, that detail at the end of the parable where that gentleman is in the wedding without proper garb. What’s that all about? Well, you needed to be dressed formally for wedding to really be admitted and we need to be dressed formally, if you will, having put on Christ in the way we live to be a part of the heavenly banquet. So, the wedding garment is a symbol of the good deeds that accompany faith. That was part of the opening prayer for Mass. That we have to live consistent with the mystery we celebrate — the great communion with God we receive in Jesus Christ.
A good question for us is how are we doing with that? Is my life consistent with the Eucharist? When I come to Mass, am I prepared to enter that wedding feast? Here in our own day, we’ve been invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb in heaven, God’s only Son, salvation with Him in perfect communion. How excited are we and prepared are we to really participate in this profound mystery where heaven touches earth and we actually receive our salvation. Jesus Christ who has died and is risen and has given to us sacramentally in the deep mystery of the Mass.