Sunday, October 12, 2014

Homily for Today

Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass. My heart rejoices every time that I see a large gathering of believers who joyfully come to the House of the Lord. Such a gathering confirms that the grace of God is working in each and everyone of you by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus. I pray that the merciful grace of the Lord will continue to flourish abundantly in your lives for years to come.

Today's readings from the Book of Isaiah, [Is. 25:5-10] the Letter of Paul to the Philippians [Phil. 4:10-14, 19-20] and the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 22:1-14] speak of an invitation to the Great Feast of the Lord Jesus. Summarizing these readings, the first one is prophetic in nature. It speaks of the Great Feast that is to come. The Second Reading echoes how God provides for our needs. The Third Reading tells us that God calls everyone but few answer His calling.

The reading from the Book of Isaiah is a prophecy regarding the promised salvation that was to come, it having been fulfilled through the Blood of Jesus Christ. This is confirmed by keywords that are used, these being, "On this mountain" [Is. 25:6] and "he will swallow up death forever." [Is. 25:7]

"On the mountain" is a figure of speech that is traced to pre- Israelite, Canaanite literature, representing a glorious heavenly banquet of eternal happiness. This prophetic passage expresses the longing of the people for the days of the absolute triumph of God over the enemies of His chosen people and the Messianic banquet that will follow in the Kingdom of God.

"He will swallow up death forever" means that the sentence of death that is found in Genesis 3:19 will be cancelled out. Eternal life, in the sense of eternally enjoying the beatific vision of God, shall be given back to the people.

The gift of eternal life and the rejoicing of God's children in the great banquet has been fulfilled through the Blood of Christ when Jesus gave up His life on the Holy Cross for the sins of the world. Since then, commemorating the Last Supper, God's children participate daily on a worldwide basis in the Holy Mass, the great banquet, to receive Christ through the Church Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Death has been conquered, life being given to God's children through Jesus, the Bread of Life.

The Second Reading appears to be wondering off the subject of the great banquet. But, indirectly, it fits perfectly with today's other two readings. The reading shines in Divine Providence, showing how the Lord God provides for His children.

In this Letter, Paul showed his deep appreciation towards the Philippians who were concerned for his distress (Imprisonment, see Phil. 1:12) and who sent him assistance. He was greatly touched by the love that was being manifested by the Philippians. While Paul expressed that he was not in need of these gifts, nor sought them out, he accepted them as an expression of the Philippians' concern for him, such being pleasing to God.

From Paul's words, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." [Phil. 4:13] we can perceive his complete trust in the Lord to provide for his daily needs. Paul had learned to be content with whatever he had. He had learned the secret of being well fed, this referring to spiritual food. He found strength in the Lord Jesus. While Paul had to endure for awhile, he saw the grace of God that came with such suffering. He endured all what was being sent his way for the sake of the spreading of the Gospel. [Phil 1:12] When compared to the eternal reward that awaited him, the momentary sufferings were nothing.

Before closing with a liturgical formula of praise to God, [1 Thess. 1:3; 3:11, 13; Eph. 5:20] Paul shared his personal conviction that God would fully satisfy the needs of the Philippians.

Reviewing the reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we perceive that there is a spiritual meaning involved. We are no longer at a Great Feast but at a Royal Wedding Feast. It is a Wedding Banquet that the Father gives for His Son. The Son is Jesus. The Bride is the invisible Kingdom of God on earth, the Mystical Body of Christ that is made visible through the Holy Catholic Church. The Holy Catholic Church had its beginning in Jerusalem on Pentecost Day when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. [Acts 1:4, 2:4]

All of this is confirmed through the Book of Revelation. "And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more...'" [Rev. 21:2-4]

From the Old Testament, we learn that the first guests who were invited to the Wedding Banquet were the Jewish people and their leaders, they being God's chosen people. Having rejected God's invitation, the Lord sent out His invitation to the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people.

The invitations were sent out to all, the good and the bad. These generous invitations echoe the abounding love and mercy of God that reaches out towards all, forgiving the sins of those who will sincerely repent of their evil ways in order to embrace a life of righteousness.

Today, the invited Gentiles are all those who have received the Sacrament of Baptism. Having been born again through faith in Christ by water and Spirit, they qualify as children of God if they persevere in their living faith until the end.

The necessity to persevere in the living faith is confirmed by the reference to the wedding robe. In those days, the proper garment to wear at a wedding was a clean white robe. The Book of Revelation tells us that those who are dressed in white are the worthy ones [Rev. 3:4] and the martyrs. [Rev. 6:9-11, 7:9, 13-4] Those who conquer, they will be clothed in white robes, and their names will not be blotted out of the book of life. Jesus will confess their name before the Heavenly Father and before the angels. [Rev. 3:5]

The mentioning of the good and bad is also symbolic of the condition of the Church throughout its history. Enduring until the Judgment, it is composed of sinners, some who persevere in their living faith and some who choose not to do so.

What is clear from this reading is that those who do not persevere, their punishment will be instant and severe. While all are called, not all answer their calling by the grace of God, some rejecting the invitation, some not accepting it fully. Not being adorned with a white robe that identifies them as children of God, those who neglect their salvation shall be thrown out in outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In a few moments, we shall continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass. The Holy Mass is the Great invisible Wedding Feast that is opened to all those who have been baptised and who live their faith in Christ. These are the children who have been called by the Father of spirits [Heb. 12:9] to be united with Christ in One Holy Body to receive the Living Bread. The Living Bread, the Holy Eucharist, assures each and every one of us our salvation as long as this Church Sacrament is received in a state of grace. For it is very offensive to God to come to His Feast and receive the Living Bread while in a state of sin. Such a sinful act would parallel the guest who was not wearing a white wedding robe.

Let us continue to praise and worship the Lord for having blessed us with this great Feast through Christ our Lord.

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