Ordinary 28th Sunday
Ordinary 28th Sunday
Is 25: 6-10a Phil 4: 12-14, 19-20 Mt 22: 1-14
While God is ready to offer us the fullness of life that we seek, our co-operation is of utmost importance in order to make it ours.
In the Bible, dinner (festal meal) refers to fullness of life God offers. ‘Fullness of life’ or ‘the abundance of life’ (Jn. 10: 10) refers to a life that has no dearth of joy, happiness and fulfilment. It is this type of joy and happiness that is not much affected by the external vagaries of life, by external ups and downs of daily events. St. Paul, in the second reading says that he had attained that stage of life: “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.”
When we look at our lives, we do know that our lives are far different from that. Everything that happens around us has an adverse impact upon us and thus we find ourselves to be the victims of the situation around. However the readings of today give us hope that such a fullness of life is possible for us too, and God is ready to offer us a life of abundance. In the gospel, Jesus also points out that this fullness of life God offers is a gratuitous, unmerited gift.
Isaiah speaks of two ways through which God offers a life of abundance. First, by destroying the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; Secondly, by wiping away the tears from all faces.
(i). He will destroy the shroud that is cast over all peoples:
Isaiah says “he(God) will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations.” The word ‘shroud’ or ‘veil’ has got a significant meaning in many spiritual traditions. For example, according to the advaitic tradition of India, truth is the deepest reality. But this truth is covered by a layer of veil, which according to it, is appearance (māyā). According to advaita, people who are in ignorance (avidyā), are caught up in the world of appearance, and consequently suffer a lot. Only those people who have got the real guts to go beyond this layer of veil, namely the layer of appearance, will find the truth and experience profound joy and lasting happiness.
Let us try to understand this point a little more concretely. God is the Truth and He alone can offer us the fullness of life. This material world is the veil which outwardly covers this Truth. There are many people who are caught up in pleasure, this material world offers. In the name of looking for happiness, they get into a rut of suffering and sadness. Quite often their search for happiness becomes the very reason for their suffering. They are the ones whose happiness is affected and determined by the external ups and downs of life.
A very few are the people who muster their courage and go beyond this veil of material world and reach God. St. Paul is an example for it. That is why he could say, “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” When a person goes beyond the veil of material world, one begins to experience a profound joy whatever the external circumstances are.
So when it is said that ‘God will destroy the shroud that is cast over all peoples’, it means that God will make people understand the futility of seeking happiness in the material realm. We all know that Jesus loudly proclaimed this truth, when he said, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Lk 12: 15)
(ii). He will wipe away the tears from all faces:
Isaiah says, “Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth.” When it is said that God would wipe away our tears, it simply refers to the fact that He is always ready to take part in our suffering and remove it. What kills many of us is not the external problem, but the feeling that there is nobody, not even our family members, who understand us and accept us during the moments of suffering. It is this feeling of loneliness that makes people feel worse than the problem itself. There are many people who say, “If only some people are ready to stand by me always, I can face any problem of my life.”
Today God tells us, “I am with you whatever your circumstances are and whatever you are.” God assures His ever-abiding presence and unflinching support all through our life. He is always ready to wipe away our tears and stand by us during the moments of suffering.
(iii) Our Response to God’s Invitation
While the first reading assures us that God is ready to offer us the fullness of life, and is ready to do whatever that is necessary, Jesus, in the gospel, points out that our co-operation and our affirmative response to God’s invitation is very important. It is said in the gospel that the people to whom the invitation was given, ‘made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.” These words point out that quite often we take our material aspects more seriously than the invitation of God to experience the life in its fullness. When a person indulges in material aspects of life, s/he says a deliberate ‘no’ to God’s invitation to the abundance of life.
Prayer of Ansari of Heart (an 11th cent. Sufi poet)
O Lord, give me that right discrimination that the lure of the world may cheat me no more. Give me strength that my faith suffer no eclipse.