Wednesday, October 15, 2014

50e Paroisse St Maurice de Nepean

Golden Jubilee of St. Maurice Parish—Ottawa, ON
                                     Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year “A”)

At the start of this Mass, I thank the Companions of the Cross who have served you for more than twenty years and I greet Bishop Riesbeck, who today celebrates the anniversary of his priestly ordination.

We gather today to give thanks to God for the fifty years of this parish community of St. Maurice. What a blessing this church and parish have been to the residents of this part of Nepean, of the Archdiocese of Ottawa! In recent years, in ways we cannot perceive, your perpetual adoration chapel has been a blessing to the community and the whole Church.

Over these many years, you have been served by nine pastors, whose years of service have varied between one and nine years; there have also been fifteen curates and a number of priests-in-residence or weekend associates. God has been with us throughout, bestowing graces through the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist and his healing mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul praised the Philippians for their care of him in his moments of need. They had helped him both financially and with their encouragement. The ups and downs of his life, Paul said, taught him to live with little and with plenty. This relationship between Paul and the Philippians points to the bond that unites priests and people: “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry.”

What was the key to Paul’s equanimity and what can possibly be our own source of consolation? Paul said, “I can do all things through him [the Risen Christ] who strengthens me.” You see, it is the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, still marked with the prints of the nails in hands and feet—and the mark left by the spear in his side—who greets you as I did at the beginning of Mass with the greatest gift possible, “Peace be with you!”

                              “COME TO THE WEDDING BANQUET”
              [Texts: Isaiah 25.6–10 [Psalm 23]; Philippians 4.10–14, 19–20; Matthew 22.1–14]

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

On this Thanksgiving weekend, the scriptural text from Isaiah speaks to us about feasting on “rich food” and with “well-aged wines.” This is a biblical parallel to our turkey with all the trimmings, pumpkin pie or other treats that will make up your Thanksgiving Dinner.

In the other biblical readings, the psalmist praises the Lord for anointing “my head with oil.” In the Gospel, Jesus recounts the parable of a wedding banquet given by a king “for his son.” God’s Word today also challenges us to be ready to attend the great feast, which God will give in the end times.

Ancient literature frequently used the image of a great banquet. The last book of the Bible describes the “wedding feast of the Lamb.” This feast denotes Christ’s victory over the enemies of God’s people (Revelation 19.1–21).

Similarly, the Apocalypse of Isaiah (chapters 24–27) declared that at the end of time, God would remove grief and mourning from people’s lives. Indeed, the Lord of hosts would “swallow up death forever.”

These days, we cannot help but reflect on elements in society that seek to hasten death and mourning. Soon, the Supreme Court will hear proposals to allow euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. These cases oppose the Christian precepts on the gospel of life from conception to natural death. Let us pray earnestly that the Supreme Court justices will choose wisely the path of affirming life. May their rulings encourage the Government of Canada to foster palliative care so that people will not fear pain and suffering in their last days. Canadians near the end of life should receive sound medical care and the consolation of family and friends at their side.

As Christians, we can stand on God’s biblical promises that a new life awaits us. We will be able to echo the Scriptures as they say, “let us be glad and rejoice in God’s salvation.” May God’s children joyfully partake in the “feast of rich food” prepared “for all peoples.”

Today’s gospel parable message is clearer when we understand that the social world in which Jesus lived was highly stratified. The elite did not mix or dine with their inferiors. It was common to invite people twice to a banquet. If the in-crowd announced they’d be there, everybody would want to go. If the in-crowd stayed away, so would everyone else, and they would make up trivial excuses.

In this story, those dissatisfied with the wedding banquet arrangements showed their disapproval. Worse, they shamed the king by murdering his slaves. It would be normal to expect the king to avenge his honour.

But this king’s wedding banquet reflected the “Kingdom of Heaven.” It went beyond the conventions of the day. The king decided to invite new guests to the wedding banquet—people decidedly different from the first ones he called: “those invited were not worthy ... go to the main streets and invite everyone you find.”

If the parable is seen as an allegory of salvation history, the first sets of slaves would be the prophets. The final invitation to the wedding banquet would be Jesus’ ministry. The last messengers would be his apostles.

Those summoned are “both bad and good.” This reflects the mystery of the church, which welcomes people others judge unworthy. For Jesus accepted “tax collectors and sinners”—those on the margins, the outcast. With Jesus’ proclamation, God’s messianic banquet becomes fully subscribed!

Now, a king who invited poor people to his banquet may have supplied them with wedding garments. So, the king, pleased that the banquet hall was full, went in to see the guests his slaves had enlisted.

Amid his joy, he was embarrassed by one individual who, strangely, had not donned a wedding garment. The king, calling this man “Friend,” asked how he could have acted in this way. The man remained speechless. Then the king called for his expulsion.

In early Christianity, a believer’s new identity—through conversion—was expressed by putting on a new set of clothing. Thus, the guest’s refusal to put on a wedding garment represents his rejection of Christ (Rom 13:14).

The mysterious saying “many are called, but few are chosen” reflects a problem of the Hebrew language created by its lack of comparative adjectives. Comparisons have to be expressed by “large” and “small” or “many” and “few.” So, we can understand the passage to mean the “chosen,” or saved, are “fewer” than those “called.”

The parable of the wedding feast is really all about our response to God’s call. It cautions us first about the dangers of indifference. When the Father invites us into a relationship with his Son, we can choose to follow him. Or, we can turn Him down and go back to our personal pursuits as though nothing has changed and no new demands have been placed on our lives.

The parable also warns us against indignation. Many people do not want to acknowledge that all sinners need salvation. To them, the Good News and its call for repentance threaten happiness and fulfilment. They would rather live in denial than receive God’s mercy and grace.

Finally, the parable warns us against incomplete conversion. The man without the wedding garment had neither ignored nor refused the invitation to the feast. But, his yes to the call of God was not carried through in his life. He wanted the good things of the Kingdom, but not enough to break with his sinful ways and live as a committed disciple.

The final verse captures the message of the parable in a short maxim. Many are invited, Jesus says, but few are chosen. The point is that all are called to the Kingdom, but not all will be found worthy to possess it.

Some will decline the invitation and so exclude themselves from its blessings. Others will accept it but will not follow through in putting its demands into practice.

Now, here is where the parable speaks about you! Those found acceptable are those committed to directing their lives by the gospel. You are to clothe yourself in the garments of true repentance and Christ-like righteousness. Indeed, you are to clothe yourself in Christ.

Clothing oneself in Christ through baptism and the gift of oneself is what links the saints whose relics will be placed in the altar: the virgin to whom Our Lord appeared to reveal his Sacred Heart—St. Margaret Mary Alacocque and the martyr saint, Maria Goretti, the champion of purity from the last century and the ancient martyrs Clare, Vincent and Severus.

We should know that, as it was for our patron St. Maurice, whose relic we will embed in the altar on this Golden Anniversary of the parish dedicated to his memory, attaching ourselves to Christ is costly. This is particularly true in this age, which is increasingly hostile to the gospel message.

The Roman Emperor commanded the Theban Legion and Maurice to sacrifice to the gods but, as Christian believers, they refused. Maurice sent him the message, “Emperor, we are your soldiers; we are ready to combat the enemies of the empire, but we are also Christians, and we owe fidelity to the true God. We are not rebels, but we prefer to die, innocent, rather than to live, guilty.”

Let us pray for the delight of knowing Christ, the joy of the gospel, and the courage to always be faithful to Christ and his saving message. Through the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary—the star of the new evangelization—may we become missionary-disciples. Amen.

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