"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
October 9, 2011: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Isaiah 25:6-10
Theme: As we saw in last week’s readings, the vineyard was a familiar symbol of the people of God. Another image familiar to Israel, one that instilled great hope, was that of the messianic banquet, which represented God’s final victory over evil and death.
This banquet was a powerful symbol of the eschatological age when God would “wipe away the tears from every face.” Psalm 23 echoes the same idea. This memorable psalm expresses David’s absolute confidence in God’s providence and protection despite the many dangers that surrounded him.
The second reading strikes a similar note as St. Paul, writing from prison and believing that death was immanent, expresses his complete trust in God’s goodness. But Paul wasn’t thinking about himself; he was thinking about the brethren in Philippi. In spite of his deprivation Paul ignored his plight to console his friends! “God will fully supply whatever you need,” he says, “in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
In this week’s Gospel Jesus tells a parable about a wedding banquet, which would have been recognized instantly by his hearers. Christ didn’t just talk about the messianic banquet; he actually embodied it when he dined with sinners and outcasts.
One of the most puzzling things about this reading is the unfortunate soul who was thrown out of the wedding banquet for not having a “wedding garment.” The point is that the invitation came sooner than expected and the poor man was caught unprepared. Jesus used this surprising image to warn his listeners about the urgency and importance being ready to “meet your maker” at any time. We can almost hear Jesus say, “Don’t let that happen to you!”
Key verse: “God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Every eucharistic celebration sacramentally accomplishes the eschatological gathering of the people of God. For us, the eucharistic banquet is a real foretaste of the final banquet foretold by the prophets (cf. Is 25:6-9) and described in the New Testament as ‘the marriage-feast of the Lamb’ (Rev 19:7-9), to be celebrated in the joy of the communion of saints” (“Sacramentum Caritatis,” 31).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing” (No. 755).”
Pope Benedict XVI: “A slogan that was popular some years back: ‘Jesus yes, Church no’, is totally inconceivable with the intention of Christ. We cannot have Jesus without the reality he created and in which he communicates himself. Between the Son of God-made-flesh and his Church there is a profound, unbreakable and mysterious continuity by which Christ is present today in his people” (Audience, March 15, 2006).
Life application: This week’s readings are both comforting and cautionary. Our invitation to the supper of the Lamb is cause for great joy. “Everything is ready; come to the feast!” But we are also warned that those who refuse the invitation or are unprepared will be “cast out into the darkness.” Jesus inaugurated the messianic age through his passion, death and resurrection. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we participate in the messianic age and are given a foretaste of the heavenly banquet that awaits us. But to gain the kingdom, “one must give up everything.”
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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