By Bishop David McGough
Twenty-eighth Sunday of the Year Isaiah 25:6-10;Philippians 4:12-14 & 19-20; Mt 22:1-14 6 1 know how to be poor and I know how to be rich.! am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty."
Paul's words seem incomprehensible to a world obsessed with profit and loss. The confidence of the markets has been severely shaken in recent months. Most people are desperately concerned to regain the years of plenty, longing for riches that once seemed so secure. Inevitably we are drawn into the unspoken question asked by Paul's confidence. What safeguards our security in such a way that we can enjoy this world without being overwhelmed by its uncertainties? In his own life and ministry Paul had known success and failure, acceptance and rejection. As his letters show, he was not indifferent to success and failure. Paul felt them deeply. He was not, however, the slave of highs and lows. He faced the future with confidence, not because he was reckless. but because his hope lay beyond the uncertain promise of his own achievements. "I have been through my initiation and I am ready for anything anywhere. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength." Through baptism we have shared Paul's initiation. We have been called to die with Christ, to die not only to sin, but also to the consequences of sin. We have. been called to die to a greed that flees from poverty, an appetite that could never contemplate an empty stomach. With Christ we are raised THE WEEK AHEAD Divine Office Week IV to new life, a life so rooted in God's love that it is freed from the tyranny of poverty and plenty.
The Old Testament and Gospel readings describe God's love as a banquet. The prophet Isaiah had addressed his words to a people in crisis. Jerusalem had been bankrupted both by the immorality of the people and foreign forces far beyond her control. A disconsolate people had been faced with the poverty of their pride. The prophet now invited them to believe in a future of God's making. "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will prepare for all people a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines." The richness of God's promise corresponded with the poverty of Israel's heart. We long to be fed, to know a love that wipes away every tear, that takes away our shame. This banquet we cannot provide for ourselves. Only God can provide for the emptiness of the Spirit. He does so lavishly, inviting us to the table of his Son, providing us with Christ who is the bread of life. Refreshed and strengthened at his table we can face all that life brings. With Paul we have learnt how to be rich and how to be poor.
Jesus, like Isaiah, spoke of God's love as a banquet freely offered to the world. But there are significant differences. Some refused to attend the wedding banquet, going so fax as to reject and even kill the king's emissaries. We do the same each time we allow sin to feed our longing. Although the invitation had been extended to good and bad alike some were turned away for lack of a wedding garment. Without a humble and contrite heart we are as naked as guests without a wedding garment.