Read Isaiah 25:6-10, Ps. 23, Philippians 4:12-14,19-20, Matthew 22:1-14

“And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.!” (Matthew 22:10)

Last Sunday, Jesus told us of the tenants who leased a vineyard but refused to give the vineyard's produce to the landowner when it was time for the harvest. They beat up the servants, injured some and killed others. When the landowner sent his son, they dragged him out and killed him. Something similar happens in today’s parable. A man invited his friends to his son’s wedding, and when it was time for the feast, he sent servants to remind the guests, only for them to give excuses, treat the servants shamefully and even kill them.

Why would tenants be bold enough to kill the servants sent to collect their rent? Why would guests turn around to kill the servants sent to remind them of the banquet? These parables highlight injustice and wickedness in people's hearts, yet Jesus is speaking directly to us in them because we are those tenants; we are the guests. This brings us to our lessons for today.

1. Only in God Can We Find Happiness
In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah says, “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things…” What does this tell us? Only in God can we find real and lasting happiness. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14). All we need to do is to “taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy the man who seeks refuge in God.” (Psalm 34:8)

However, by living sinful lives, we behave like these guests in today’s Gospel passage who felt there were more important things to do than attending the banquet. The master told the servants: “Tell those who have been invited to come.” In other words, we already have God’s invitation cards. The problem is attending the banquet –doing what God desires of us. Why do we assume that God’s commandments restrict our happiness and fulfilment? Why do we think that there is something to gain from sin?

2. What Stops Us From Attending the Banquet?
Jesus said: “One went off to his farm, another to his business…” Since the wedding banquet would only last a few hours, couldn’t they have attended and returned to their farm or business? The point here is that we cannot serve two masters. Those who gave the excuse of not attending the banquet are like the seed planted among thorns. As Jesus noted: “The cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19)

Could my love for money be preventing me from giving God his due? Have I made money, a god? Is my job requiring me to tell lies, cheat my customers, steal or prostitute my body? Do I kill others to make money? Am I into cybercrime (Yahoo Plus)? Am I working for a kidnapper, a ritual killer or one whose ways are not pure?

In today’s second reading, St. Paul encourages the Philippians on contentment. He says: “In any circumstances, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want.” (Philippians 4:12). Be content with whatever you have. Trust in God and obey Him, and He will bless the works of your hands. Our Psalmist today says that if you obey God’s words, He will prepare a table for you, and your cup will run over. (Psalm 23:5-6). Jesus also assures us: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all (money, success in business, comfort, luxury, etc.) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:32-33).

While some guests gave excuses, others went as far as seizing, maltreating and killing the messengers. There are many today who consider God as an enemy. They blame all our problems in this country on religion. I recently saw a viral video on social media. In the video, a woman stated that Japan became what it is today because one of its leaders, Tokyo, gathered and slaughtered all the religious leaders. To honour him, the Japanese changed the name of their capital from Edo to Tokyo. According to her, religion prevents us from using our brains.

My question for her is: “Is God responsible for the enshrinement of corruption in every aspect of our national life?” This woman’s reasoning is captured by St. James when he wrote: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

3. The Wedding Banquet Has Begun; Repent Now or Never
When the guests refused to show up, the master said: “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.” (Matthew 22:8-9). Jesus told this parable to the Jews, God's chosen people - the original guests who rejected Him.

St. John explains: “He came to his own home, and his people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13). God has sent out an open invitation today to us. The wedding banquet has begun. God will not let the food become cold or the drinks waste. There is no time. Do not procrastinate. Today is all you have to repent. If you harden your heart, what God had prepared for you may go to someone else.

Nigerians, let us come out of the darkness. Let us repent from the many evils bedevilling our society. Let us look inward and take out whatever is ungodly and unholy. Let us act like the Nenivites; let us fast and pray. Let us implore the mercy of God and resolve to walk as His children. Let us go beyond being the most prayerful nation on earth. Let us become doers of God’s Word. Let our worship of God not end with prayer; let it translate to daily living.

4. Avoid Over-Familiarity; do not take God for Granted
The king discovered that there was a guest without a wedding garment. It is possible that this man came in wearing his wedding garment (otherwise, he would have been turned back at the gate). Having begun well, he must have become so relaxed that he removed his wedding garment. Never take God for granted. Do not quench that lighted candle. Do not sink into sin.

On the other hand, it is also possible that this man did not have wedding garments. In this case, what stopped him from going to borrow before attending the banquet? Do not rely on your strength alone. To win the race set before us, we must be prayerful. We must always be fully dressed for action. (Cf. Ephesians 6:11-18).

Finally, for those who think that dressing doesn’t matter, this parable reminds us of the saying: “Dress as you like to be addressed.” The kind of clothes you wear at any time speaks volumes about you. Children of God, clothes are designed to cover your body and not to do the opposite. Avoid immoral or sexually provocative dressing.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, you are my shepherd; deepen my trust in your providing hand that I may not pursue only the things of this world. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Isaiah 25:6-10, Ps. 23, Philippians 4:12-14,19-20, Matthew 22:1-14).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu