28th Sunday Year A
Sunday 15th October 2023
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Mt 22: 1-14
Jesus continued to counter the religious authorities, telling them more parables. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king, who was organising his son’s wedding. He sent out his servants with wedding invitations but the people who received them couldn’t be bothered to answer. So again he sent out his servants to stress the importance of this invitation: “Look, I have a magnificent feast prepared. The best beef, even grain feed, have been slaughtered and all is now ready. Come, enjoy the marriage celebration!”
‘But the people who were invited couldn’t have cared less. One went out to look over his farm, another carried on with his business, while yet others, in anger, attacked the servants and killed them. The king was furious when he heard of this. He dispatched his army to destroy the murderers and wipe out their city.
‘Still the feast had to go on. The king said to his servants: “The feast is ready and we will celebrate. Those who were invited were not worthy of an invitation. So now go out onto the roads and bid anyone and everyone to come to the wedding feast.” So they did that, went out along the roads and invited all, bad and good alike, to come to the wedding. And the wedding hall was full of guests.
‘The king came in to greet his guests and there was one who hadn’t even tried to dress properly for the wedding. The king said to him, “Friend, why didn’t you even make an effort to dress up for this wedding.” But the man didn’t bother to answer. The king said to his servants, “Tie him up and throw him out into the darkness, where there will be weeping and wails of complaint.”’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Lord God, divine shepherd;
in the days ahead, just as it has been all my life,
I shall not want for anything.
You will rest me in rich pasture
and lead me beside calm waters.
You will bring my inner being back where it belongs,
and lead me along the right paths,
for the sake of your name.
Even when things seem at their darkest,
sensing your presence, I fear nothing;
you are sure of the way ahead, and you protect me.
Indeed, in spite of the adversity surrounding me
you continue to provide abundantly for my well-being
anointing me with your hospitality
and pouring out blessing upon blessing.
Surely good and loving kindness will pursue me all my days,
I will return, and you, O Lord,
shall be my dwelling-place for days without end.
For use in worship, with acknowledgement. (c) Jeff Shrowder 2002.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, your Spirit ever calls us to enter into your kingdom but too often we allow our work, our pleasures, even our passions to turn us away from the call of grace. May we listen to the Spirit’s promptings in all the events of life and allow the call of grace to draw us into your love and joy. We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This Sunday’s Gospel shows some of the complexity that went into the writing of the Gospels. Both Matthew and Luke recount this Gospel with differing emphases. In fact Matthew’s version seems to be two parables joined by the reference to the Wedding feast. When reading this Sunday’s Gospel we can be struck by elements in the story that don’t seem to add up. Wouldn’t the king be living in the city that he orders destroyed? How could the king expect the man pulled off the street to have a wedding garment? Isn’t the king more than a little violent? Valid questions if one was expecting a ‘true story’ but this parable is really an allegory. Allegory uses symbolism to jolt us into reconsidering our easily accepted world view.
This combined parable is directed to two different groups, the religious establishment of Israel and the new converted Gentile Christians. It is the third in a series of parables directed to the religious authorities and it is followed by four condemnations of the same people. The destruction of the Jerusalem and its Temple had taken place when Matthew wrote his Gospel. Against this background Matthew uses the parable to ‘explain’ how the rejection of Jesus by the religious authorities led to the destruction of Jerusalem. At the same time, with the story of the man without the wedding garment, he warns the newly invited Christians that they cannot be complacent about their faith. Being invited into the Kingdom of Heaven by the gracious generosity of God does not necessarily ensure salvation – neither for the people of Israel nor for the Gentile Christians. All need to show the reality of conversion in faith and good deeds.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
Jesus was not always, meek and mild, sweet and nice to people. He could also be free and forthright in his criticism. His anger, which we see in today’s Gospel, was not directed at the sinners, the tax-collectors and prostitutes, but rather at the members of the religious establishment. What was it that made Jesus so harsh towards these people?
The people Jesus criticised had become at ease following the religious system. Morally good they would have been proficient at correctly following all the prayer rituals. Religion, for them, had become a process of keeping within the rules – not of worshipping God. When people become too caught up in morality and religious practices, they can forget the greatness and gloriousness of God. Too preoccupied with what they do, they miss delighting in God.
I use that word ‘delighting’ intentionally. In this Sunday’s parable, the invitation was to a wedding feast – a party! The king was calling the people to share in his joy. Joy is a distinctive feature of true faith. If we truly believe that God is God, that God is gracious and loving, rich in mercy and generosity, then this faith gives us a buoyancy, in spite of the circumstances we may be in. We believe that God is with us and that God’s providence is at work in our lives. This joy also makes us generous towards other people. We can put aside our concerns and enter into their sorrow, their joys. In short, we can accept the invitations to enter the Kingdom of Heaven that constantly come to us in our daily life.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
How often Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding banquet – the ultimate of all parties in his own society and in ours. In these parables people are judged by their capacity to join in appropriately. A test for our fitness to enter the Kingdom of God is our party skills.
And what are great party skills? One, the freedom to leave our roles and work behind for a while and enjoy the gifts offered by our hosts. Secondly, the capacity to enter into the joy of other people. Our own pleasure is not the only way we become happy. Other people’s joy can pleasure us too.
Those who refused to come to the wedding could not do this. They were simply wrapped up in their own affairs. Notice how they react when the king challenges them – with violence and anger. When we cannot enjoy and celebrate the lives of other people we often don’t just remain neutral towards them. Resentment can twist our hearts and we can lash out with anger or criticism. And if we cannot enter into the joy of other people, how will we be able to enter the joy of God?
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
– Parable of the Great Banquet by Brunswick Monogrammist .
– The Wedding Feast by Tintoretto.
– Ian Pollock’s The Royal Wedding Feast shows the distortion that comes about when our preoccupations close us to the presence of God.
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
‘Pre-occupied and distracted’ – how often we find ourselves like that.
In this coming week, try to be present to the moment when you are doing simple things. Mull on God’s call to holiness in the simple ordinary tasks like washing-up, driving the car. Ask God what is good and holy about what you are doing and be prepared to be surprised by joy in these simple tasks.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
We all have times when we feel disconnected from God, as though we are missing something important and don’t know what it is.
Rest in the love of your God.
As you rest in the love of your God, recall you sense of disconnectedness and bring it before God. Allow the sense of unease to be present.
As you sit with this, ask God if there is something within you that is out of balance, which preoccupies you excessively.
– Maybe it is a habit of the heart – like feeding anger, or excessive pleasure, or thinking negatively of other people, or envy.
– Maybe it is attachment to work or self-image,
– Maybe it is fear.
Whatever it is God can deal with it in love. Hold it out to God and ask for healing and guidance…and the strength to do whatever needs to be done to allow you to live for the Kingdom of God.
Rest in the love of your God.