|On various occasions,
I have quoted words from one of the liberation theologians of El Salvador
who was murdered down there in November 1989. This is Father Ignacio Ellacuria.
He was the rector of the University of Central America. The words that
I quoted were words that he wrote in a newspaper article describing the
Christian community. He said, ďWe are people of the gospel.
We are people of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel that proclaims
the reign of God and that calls us to transform our world into as close
an image of that reign of God as possible.Ē
For me, thatís a clear
expression of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus; to be someone who
is a person of the gospel and understands that this gospel proclaims Godís
reign on earth and calls us to transform our world so that it becomes as
close as possible to the fullness of Godís reign.
We know that, when we
talk about the reign of God, weíre not talking about a place, as if the
kingdom of God is someplace else. Weíre talking about a situation
where Godís ways are followed, where Godís goodness and love break forth
in every person. The reign of God is what happens when we follow Godís
If we listen to the lessons
of todayís Eucharist, perhaps weíll get a better understanding of how Jesus
describes the reign of God as he understood it from the prophets himself
and how we can help transform our world into as close an image of that
reign of God as possible.
When Jesus spoke about
the reign of God, he drew from the prophets. That passage that we heard
today would have been a passage that Jesus knew very, very well. Itís a
beautiful: On this mountain, God will prepare for all peoples.
The reign of God is not something exclusive. Itís for all peoples:
God will prepare a feast, full of rich food and choice wine, meat full
In other words God provides
for us everything we need as human persons.
When we encounter God,
God provides for us everything. Then God reaches out to us with tenderness
and love, because God will destroy the pall caste over all peoples, a death
pall -- the very shroud spread over all the nations and death will be no
more. In the reign of God, there is fullness of life. When that reign of
God breaks forth in its fullness, thereís no more death. God, tenderly
and carefully wipes away tears from all cheeks and eyes, takes away the
humiliation of people all over the world.
So the reign of God is
a beautiful, marvelous, powerful experience of God being present within
us, drawing us to follow God and Godís ways and then helping to transform
our world into as close an image of that reign of God as possible.
And itís important for us to hear those words from Isaiah and to hold them
deeply within our heart.
As we listen to Jesus
telling us that the reign of God is like this wedding feast, he goes on
to tell the story to the Pharisees. That wedding feast parable that
we hear today is also recounted in the gospel of Luke. Itís really
the same story, although these two gospels were written down at different
times. So, as the writers proclaimed them, they used the message
of the parable for different purposes. As you know, a parable is
not a story that has only one meaning. Every parable of Jesus is to be
read in whatever circumstance it is proclaimed.
We have to listen to
parables out of our own background and draw the teaching that Jesus is
proclaiming. Well, when Luke proclaimed it and wrote it down in the gospel,
it wasnít a wedding feast, it was simply a dinner that someone was holding
and inviting all of his friends and relatives to come and have this marvelous
dinner. And someone who was listening to Jesus says, ďHappy are those
who eat at the banquet in the kingdom of God.Ē This person was suggesting
that this is going to happen a long time from now, when the kingdom of
God finally happens after this world is over.
But then Jesus tells
this parable to indicate itís happening now. He describes how a person
has this banquet and invites everyone to come. He wants people to
realize as he tells that story, ďThis is what I am doing.Ē When Jesus
tells this story, he was at a meal, celebrating with friends, enjoying
one anotherís company. And heís saying, ďItís especially as you see
me doing, reaching out to the poor and drawing them in, people who are
lame or crippled in any way and drawing them in, people who have been rejected
and drawing them in.Ē
Thatís how Jesus acted
whenever and wherever he went. He would always draw all the most
poor and neglected and oppressed people to be with him. And he was saying,
ďItís happening now, Iím drawing all the peoples to myself.Ē
And so Jesus was emphasizing
that you donít wait until the next life for the reign of God to happen.
It begins to happen here and now. Just as it was when Jesus was inviting
people to come and have meals with him and especially invited the poor,
the oppressed, and the rejected.
Now, when Matthew tells
the story, itís in that context that I mentioned before, where Jesus had
gone into the temple. Itís one of the most striking things that happens
in the gospels. In fact, it disturbs many of us, because he went into the
temple and he acted out of anger. He was very angry when he went in there
and he saw the poor being exploited. And thatís what was happening, they
were being exploited by the religious leaders and Jesus became angry at
that. He said, ďYouíre making Godís house a den of thieves. I canít
let that go on.Ē And so he knocked over the tables and drove the moneychangers
out, so that the poor could be welcomed there in Godís house and not be
So when Jesus told the
parable in that context, the leaders had challenged him, ďBy what authority
do you this?Ē So then he began to tell this parable. And itís
the parable about people who have been invited and who donít want to come.
Theyíre not interested in the reign of God. And, in this instance, the
parable is changed a bit. Those that donít want to come, not only refuse
the invitation, but they also kill the servants and they try to prevent
others from entering into the reign of God, into the fullness of life.
They try to prevent others from being able to live in a world that is transformed
into as close an image of the reign of God as possible.
And Matthew was writing
at a time when the city of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Roman armies.
So he suggests that because you rejected the reign of God this is what
happens, destruction of what is most sacred to you, the very temple of
Those religious leaders
understood what Jesus was saying. They knew he was talking about
them. And he made it very clear that what they were doing was not bringing
about the reign of God and, for that reason, they would find themselves
excluded from it.
Now as we listen to this
parable, itís important for us to put it in the context in which we live.
Remember that the reign of God will be this marvelous time when all peoples,
especially the poor and oppressed, are allowed to share in all the good
things that God has given in this world Ė that this is for all and not
just for a few. If we listen to this parable carefully, we think
about the world in which we live and weíll understand very quickly that
we are not transforming our world into as close an image of the reign of
God as possible.
Weíre like the people
in the parable today in the sense that we kill the servants who are bringing
the message today. We donít want to hear it. We donít want
to change our lives. We donít want to work to transform our world
into this reign of God where everyone on this planet would have access
to all the beautiful and good things that God has given us; that we would
have a banquet where everybody comes and shares, rich or poor, black or
white, men or women, no matter what; everybody; breakdown every barrier,
cross every line and draw all people together into one world where all
share in what God has given for all.
Now, you know and I know
that our world isnít like that. One fifth of us take to ourselves
87% of the worldís resources and wealth. The bottom fifth has 1.2%.
Youíve heard those numbers before. It should shock us. Itís far from
the reign of God. Itís almost totally opposite what the reign of God should
be. And what makes it even worse right now is that weíre going to war.
And you know why weíre going to war. Our own leaders have told us
in a document that was published by the Pentagon back in 1988 that said
we will have to wage war in the next two decades in the third world to
protect our vital resources. It said it very blatantly and very plainly.
Thatís not bringing about
the reign of God. Weíre like the ones in the parable who destroy the messenger,
refuse to have the banquet, and refuse to come.
Perhaps, we need to think
about what happened in Matthewís parable. They refused the word of Jesus
and their temple was destroyed. All that they held sacred and good
was destroyed. Their lives were turned upside down. It was a time of injustice
and violence and terrible anguish. Perhaps we are preparing for that kind
of outcome for ourselves, if we continue to refuse to hear the call of
Jesus and to transform our world into as close an image of the reign of
God as possible.
As we reflect on this
and perhaps begin to understand that we are failing to respond to the word
of Jesus in the way that he asks of us, to try to share our wealth, to
try to change the situation so that all of the peoples of the world come
to the banquet and are refreshed and blessed by God, in the reign of God,
and as we think about what we need to do, we might also understand that
for any one of us we donít have to wait until the full reign of God happens.
You or I or any of us can enter into that reign of God right now.
I think thatís what is
meant at the end of the parable today where there was this one person who
did not have the wedding garment on and was put out. The hearers
of the parable would have understood it. Wedding garments were provided
for everyone and it was that personís choice not to have one. Everyone
can have the wedding garment. Any one of us can enter into the reign
of God by being clothed in Jesus. Paul speaks about that at our baptism:
You are clothed in Jesus. You change, you become like Jesus, and you develop
a spirit of compassion, tenderness, love, care, reaching out to others,
drawing people together.
Any one of us can do
that. We might have to change our live to some extent. If we really want
to enter into the reign of God, we can do it and that will help us to make
sure that the world around us is gradually changed and transformed into
the reign of God. We donít have to wait until it all happens. Make your
choice today. Each of us can do that. Say, ďI will clothe myself
in Jesus and follow his way and thereby help transform the world around
me into the reign of God.Ē
In the second lesson
today, St. Paul gives us an understanding of what that can mean for any
one of us. Heís in jail. Heís deprived of all the things that we
think would be important for a happier, joyful life. Yet he says,
ďLook, it makes no difference. I am joined with Jesus. Iím
clothed in Jesus. Iím at peace and thereís joy in my heart.Ē
You sense that as Paul writes this letter from jail. In those worst
of circumstances, he is joyful, filled with peace.
And that will be what
happens for every one of us as we chose to follow the way of Jesus -- to
enter into the reign of God in my life, right now, wherever I am and whatever
Iím doing. Then, I will be entering into the work of Jesus and in
some small way, but real way, I will be helping to transform our world
as fully as possible into as close an image of the reign of God as possible.
In the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.