Sunday, 12 October 2008

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Shaftesbury

Mt 22:1-14; Isa 25:6-10; Phil 4:12-20
Some of my weeks are very eventful, and some of my weeks I wish were a little less eventful, and this last week was an eventful one.
By Tuesday my ‘to do’ list for the month seemed it had become too long to be manageable;
On Wednesday I realise that the Icelandic bank with my savings had declared itself insolvent;
On Thursday by car broke down on the A303 at 11pm in the dark;
And on Friday I wondered what was going to happen next –live seemed pretty uncertain!
I say this, in part, because I know that this has been an uncertain week for many people, including many of you –stock market worries mean that pensions and jobs are all causes for concern.

So I turned on Friday to our readings, to prepare a homily for you.
I normally look at the readings and start thinking about them on Monday;
And I realised that if I had done that THIS Monday my experience of the week would have been different. My bank would still be insolvent and my car would still be broken down, but my EXPERIENCE of these events would have been different.

The prophecy in our first reading from Isaiah is of the Messianic banquet that God will prepare. Our Gospel had Jesus, the Messiah, give a parable telling how ALL people will be invited –even though we have to get ourselves ready by holy lives (thus the allusion to the need of white weddings garments).
The Messianic banquet is the standard Scriptural image of the happiness of Heaven –a place where every present need will taken care of, where every present difficulty will be ended.
This is the promise of “pie in the sky”. It’s a promise that is mocked by sceptics and attacked by Marxists as delusional. And, it must be said, if there is no ‘pie in the sky’ then the promise of it is a great injustice.

However, if there IS a Messianic banquet then it does change many things: Why is it that my present worries distress me? In part, because they are real problems. But more fundamentally, because I begin to fear that they will never end. That these problems will only be replaced by other problems, and those by yet more problems –and HOW can I go on?
The promise of Heaven changes this by telling us of a time and place where this chain of problems will DEFINITIVELY end. “The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek”(Isa 25:8). And if I know that there WILL be an end to my problems them it radically changes my ability to confront them.
My knowledge of Heaven IS knowledge and not mere fantasy because He who is the greatest authority, the greatest source of fact, has died and returned from the dead and told me it is so.

Of course, none of this makes my present difficulties vanish –Jesus did not promise us an easy ride. But, as we heard from St Paul, He did promise to be with us on the way and help us on the way. Thus St Paul says, “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength”, and with this help St Paul is able to calmly if not joyfully say, “I know how to be poor and know how to be rich too” (Phil 4:12).

My car has now been repaired. The government now tells me my savings are, somehow, guaranteed. Many items on my ‘to do’ list are less vital than I sometimes tell myself. And I feel a little calmer about life.
But if I had started my week with a clearer focus on my destination, on Heaven, then I would have remembered in each problem that these problems will not last forever, they will end. And, if I have been good, if I appear before the Lord in a “wedding garment” fit for the banquet, then this vale of tears will open up to the bright promise of immortality.

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