28th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Gospel –Matthew 22:1-14

“God is Great; God is Good; thank You for . . !”

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 12 October 2014

Today’s Gospel parable is a description of a very formal event of a wedding of a king’s son. In the Palestinian culture of the time, two invitations were sent when the wedding dinners were held.  The first invitation asked that the guests attend the celebration.  The second invitation announces that the wedding preparation is ready.  In this parable, the “king” who always represents God in Jewish parables, invited his guests twice, and each time they refused; giving different excuses.  In the end, the king extended his invitation to all other peoples, regardless of their social status.

The meaning of this parable is crystal clear to the Jews at Jesus’ time.  Jesus was proclaiming that not everyone accepts God’s invitations to share His eternal joy and happiness.  Many gave lame excuses and preferred to turn to other concerns and interests in their daily living.

What about us?  Many of us may think that we are not turning away from God’s invitation.  “Why should we?” we tell ourselves, “After all, God is offering us an eternal life of joy and happiness . . . it would be ridiculous to turn away from such a divine gift!”  If we reflect on our lives more deeply, we may be surprise to learn that at different times and in different ways we have a tendency to reject God’s blessings and gift of salvation.

One of the main reasons why many choose to turn away from God’s invitation to share His eternal life of joy and happiness is our lack of gratitude to God for all the blessings that He has given us and continues to give us.  Let us reflect on some examples: “How many of us ask God to bless our food before we eat, but rarely thank Him after we have eaten our fill?  How many of us beg God when we are in the crises of our marriage, or on the verge of losing our job or experience a serious illness, and not long after our prayers are answered, we return to our old ways of living and again not taking our faith and God seriously? . . . How is it that we forget God or take Him for granted so easily when things are well in our lives?  Do we need to wait for another crisis before we take God seriously again?

           

There is story about Jake (not his real name), whose wife had left him. Mary Lou and her friend being friends of Jake shares, “There was no way you could reach out to Jake; he was completely depressed.  He had lost faith in himself, in people and in God.  He no longer found any joy in living.  One rainy morning he went to a small cafe for breakfast.  Although several people were there, no one was speaking to anyone else.  Our miserable friend Jake, was in a corner, hunched over the window counter, stirring his coffee with a spoon.

At one of the small tables was a young mother with her little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence of the café by almost shouting, "Mom, why don't we say our prayers here?!"  The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, "Sure, dearie, we can pray here.  Will you say the prayer for us?"  Everyone in the café by now was looking on to see what was to happen.  The little girl then bowed her head, clasped her hands and said, "God is great, God is good, and we thank You for our food. Amen."

That prayer of the child was so loud that it was as though it was a prayer made for everyone; the entire atmosphere of the café changed.  Mysteriously, people began to talk with one another.  What was more surprising was that Jake began to straighten up . . . some weeks later when we met Jake; he no longer looked as depressed as he was before.  He confessed to us, “Do you remember the morning when the little girl caught everyone’s attention in the café when she prayed that "God is great, God is good, and we thank You for our food?”

          

It touched me deeply and opened my heart to sense that in spite of the pains of my life, I still have much to thank God . . . I realised that I had to stop focusing only on my pain and struggles in life.  Since then, I began to see that amidst the darkness and pains of my life, I am not alone; God is ever still so good to me and has always been there for me, I am now able to experience the strength I need to break free from the darkness of my life and experience a renewed hope in my life.  (adapted from: Thanksgiving Sermon 2010 Christ Church Cherry Valley)

There is another story of Marie, who one afternoon, after some shopping in a mall, felt she needed a coffee break.  She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag.  After she got her coffee, she looked hard in the crowed café for a place to sit. Finally, she found one where she had to share a small table with a man who was reading his newspaper.

Marie then settled herself; took the lid off her coffee and a magazine from her bag and started to read.  After a few sips of her coffee, she reached out and took a cookie.  To her surprise, the man who was seated at her table also reached out and took a cookie from the bag too.  This put Marie off, but she did not say anything.  A few moments later she took another cookie.  Once again the man did so too.  Now, Marie was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.

           

A few minutes later, Marie once again took another cookie.  And, so did the man!  This was getting too much and Marie was getting upset, especially since now only one cookie was left.  Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left.  Before she could say anything he took it, broke it in half, smiled at her and offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself.  Marie just could not believe what was happening; being too shocked, she smiled back at him, and took the cookie.  The man then gave Marie another smile, put his paper under his arm, rose and walked off.

Just as Marie was getting angrier at the man for ruining her coffee break, she suddenly noticed while putting her magazine into her bag, that her own bag of cookies was unopened and were still in her bag . . . Yes, Marie had all the time been eating the man’s cookies instead of her own.

In many ways, this story reminds us of how God always treats us.  He is always patient with us, even though we may be doing the wrong things in life.  God as symbolised by the king in today’s Gospel continues to accept us as we are even though we reject Him, get upset with Him and blame Him for the wrongs that He has not done.  (Adapted from: "Remembering To Give Thanks: Blessing God,” Rev. Richard J. Fairchild; a-thansm  509000)

Recently, someone shared with me a beautiful experience in her family.  She said, her 14 year old son one day, questioned his dad, “Dad, he said, you don’t seem to take your faith very seriously.  So, give me one good reason why I should go to Church regularly on Sunday?  Everyone was silent . . . including his little sister.  Two days later the little girl said to her brother, David, I am ready to give you the answer.  The reason why we should go to Mass every Sunday is to because we need to ‘Thank God.’”  David and everyone in the home were again silent . . . as the profound answer of this little girl was acceptable.

             

My brothers and sisters in Christ, as I conclude, let us remind ourselves that God’s patience with us is infinite and His Love for us is unconditional.  Today’s Gospel is challenging you and I to value the abundant blessings that God continues to give us daily in our lives; we need to count our blessings instead of looking for “greener” pastures that do not exist outside God’s Kingdom that is already present to us. We need to heed David’s little sister who reminds us that we need to return here every Sunday, and better still daily, to “Thank God” for His Goodness.  And, when things don’t go well and when we are tempted to be upset with God, remember the story; we may be “eating someone’s cookies.”  Finally, we also need to pray with a heart that dares to say and believe that, "God is great, God is good, and we thank You for our food . . . and indeed for everything we have in our lives!”  And, that we will not take God for granted again!

Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.

                                  

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