All You Can Eat

All You Can Eat

Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year. Fr Aelred Connelly whets our appetite for the messianic banquet. 

Wedding banquets can be tricky occasions. The seating plan has to take account of such little matters as family feuds, past and present, and who among the guests are on speaking terms with each other.

At my brother’s wedding I was placed next to the elderly Anglican canon who had conducted the wedding service, because I was a Dominican student at the time, and therefore the next best thing to a Catholic clergyman! We got along very well. I was happy to have contributed to the cause of ecumenism.

The wedding banquet in today’s gospel parable seems to have been an equally tricky affair. The great and the good seem to have had much more important things to attend to.

To make matters worse, they treated the king’s invitation with contempt, even doing violence to his servants sent to call those invited to the banquet.

Another set of invitations is sent out to those in the highways and the byways, to both the good and the bad, and the least in that society.

A crucial point in the parable concerns those who choose to respond to the call of invitation: Are they – are we – prepared for that call of invitation, to enter the Kingdom?

It is clearly an invitation and a calling that requires both a freely chosen response on our part and a commitment to the values of the Kingdom. We need to be clothed in the wedding garment, which seems to suggest our baptismal commitment. The choice is ours, but is itself dependent on the original choice of God in Jesus, the son and heir to the Kingdom, to whose banquet we are called.

However, our initial baptismal response is not by itself enough. We need to live the life of the Kingdom, allowing the baptismal gifts of faith, hope and love to grow in our Christian lives together.

These gifts are sustained and strengthened above all by the gift of Jesus himself in the banquet of the Holy Eucharist. This is the promise and foretaste of the messianic banquet promised in today’s first reading from Isaiah.

A too narrow interpretation of today’s readings might tend us to despair of being called, but not chosen, and lead to the temptation of despair of being able to live the life of kingdom values.

A too wide interpretation might lead us to the presumption of the Pharisees, present and past, who think they already possess the Kingdom and do not need to come humbly to the enjoyment of the banquet.

Above all, we all need to hear the preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven from one another. Perhaps that is the foremost task today of the Dominican Order, the Order of Preachers, that calling to preaching for the salvation of souls, including our own.

Amid so much bad news, turbulence and uncertainty in our world, we are given the precious gift of a word of hope to those facing the temptation of both despair and presumption. Persevere in faith, hope and love. Bring God’s mercy to the suffering, perplexed, those in difficulty and in all sorts of troubles.

Above all, bring joy to the young, respect the old, and enjoy the gift of Jesus, the son and heir to the Kingdom, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Readings:Isaiah 25:6-10|Philippians 4:12-14,19-20|Matthew 22:1-14

fr Aelred Connelly is a member of the house of St Albert the Great, Edinburgh, and is chaplain to a Young Offenders' Institution.