Tuesday, October 14, 2014

12 October 2014 - Thanksgiving Weekend

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading
Isaiah 25.6-10a
Second Reading
Philippians 4.12-14, 19-20
Gospel Reading
Matthew 22.1-14


Sometimes in our dedication to being good Christians, we forget that Jesus was a Jew. We forget that much of what Jesus says in the New Testament is an expansion of themes found in the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the Prophets. We also forget that Paul's writing comes from a man grounded in the Torah and the Prophets. One of the central themes found in the Hebrew Scriptures is justice.
Jesus' parable in today's Gospel can be viewed as a prequel of sorts to today's passage from Isaiah, in which the Prophet tells us of the feast God will prepare. But our God is not content just to feed our stomachs and relieve our thirst, God is going to soothe the hurts we have received. God “will wipe away the tears from all faces” and take away the disgrace of all the earth and it's people. Our God is a generous God and it is right to shout our thanks and praise.
In the second reading Paul tells of going through good times and bad, sustained by faith. However, the lectionary omits the middle verses of the passage for today. In those verses Paul, praises the Philippians for their support of his mission. Paul clarifies what he means and says to them, 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. ...I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” When Paul says, “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches,” he is not advocating that you give so that you can get. Rather, he is saying that if everybody gives or shares, everybody will have what they need. He is saying all gifts are from God. Generosity with our gifts imitates God's generosity with us.
The phrase, “many are called but few are chosen” at the end of today's Gospel has often been used as an exclusionary device. But if we look at it in the context of the whole parable, we see it shouldn't be. Jesus is familiar with the writing of Isaiah and, of course, with God's will for us. “ The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast.” Put in today's terms, our Creator invites us to participate in making the Kindom a place of plenty, a feast. Therefore, justice is key to one's participation.
The rich and important folks are invited but they are too busy with agribusinesses or corporate affairs to accept the invitation. The poor of the world are crying out, extending God's invitation to governments and corporations to be just. We hear of Coca-Cola or Monsanto executives that hire paramilitaries to silence those cries and the government of Canada ignore the rights of Indigenous Peoples and refuse deal fairly with refugee claimants. They refuse to be part of the feast. After their refusal, the invitation is extended to the ordinary folks. But even among these, there are those who refuse to put on the clothes of justice and compassion.
The distinction made in the Gospel between “those who have been invited” and “those invited from the streets” does not mean that God invites the important people first and then the ordinary people last. Jesus uses this to show that acceptance to participate in God's plan for us doesn't depend on one's station in life, but more importantly, to show that those with more power have a greater responsibility to use that power for the good of all but usually don't.
God invites us all to help “wipe away the tears from all faces” and it can start with little things. A particularly significant example for this weekend, is the issue of Columbus Day. In 1992, the city of Berkeley, California, has replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day. Since then, other cities including Sebastopol and Santa Cruz, California; Dane County, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Seattle, Washington, have done the same.1 This may seem trite or insignificant but as a Seattle city councillor said, “Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day is about taking a stand against racism.2” These city governments didn't decide to do this on their own. There were those, who like in the parable, refused to change but most peoplethe people in the streets took a stance of solidarity with Native Americans. Their concern and perseverance for justice finally got their municipal governments to act.
I now return to “many are called but few are chosen”. The Greek, κλητός (klétos) translated as “called” could also be translated as “invited”. Likewise, ἐκλεκτός (eklektos) translated as “chosen,” typically describes people who choose to follow God, to follow in the footsteps of Christ. God's gifts are always dependent on our acceptance. We show our gratitude and thanksgiving for God's invitation and gifts by the way we act, by the way we treat our neighbour. Rather than a declaration of the superiority of the few or endorsing exclusion, Jesus is saying, “many are invited but few make the right choice.” Our God is a generous God and it is right to shout our thanks and praise in word and most of all in deed.

Point to Ponder: Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Let's take a moment and think of something that we take for granted, then express our thanks to God, and/or, think of something that God may be inviting us as individuals to do and name it.

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