Sunday, October 11, 2020

Old-Timer, Newcomer, Homemaker

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings: Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 22(23); Philippians 4:12-14,19-20; Matthew 22:1-14

Picture: cc Tanmoy Kumar Roy

My dear friends, if you had a choice, which would you rather be, an old-timer or a newcomer? Which of these do you think is more likely to succeed? Does it matter? At the workplace, for example, while an old-timer may have more experience, he may also tend to be more stubborn, less willing to change. And although a newcomer may be more energetic and creative, she may also lack prudence and perseverance. So perhaps success at work doesn’t depend so much on seniority, as it does on other more important things.

But if this is true of the workplace, what about our faith? Does it make a difference whether I am a decades-old cradle-Catholic or a recently baptised convert? A new parishioner or a parish priest? Which of these is more likely to remain faithful? Which is more likely to fall away? What do you think?

At first glance, it may seem that the gospel is biased against the veterans. For the reading begins as it did last Sunday, by telling us that Jesus began to speak to the chief priests and elders of the people. Through his parable, the Lord issues a stern warning to these old-timers. If they do not change, not only will they be excluded from God’s Kingdom, they will be destroyed. And this will happen because they allow their obsession with money and popularity and power to blind them to what is good. They fail to recognise in Jesus the fulfilment of that beautiful promise in the first reading. Jesus is the mountain on which God will wipe away the tears from every cheek. But the leaders are too busy to climb this mountain, too blind to beg forgiveness for their sins.

Even so, it’s also important to see that, just as the parable begins by rebuking some veterans, it also ends with a caution to novices. For isn’t the one thrown out into the dark a newcomer? And what do we learn from his fate, if not that inclusion in God’s Kingdom doesn’t depend only on turning up at the banquet. Just as it’s not enough for us simply to show up here at Mass. Difficult though it may be, these days. No, our salvation depends ultimately on true discipleship of Jesus. And true discipleship involves more than mere lip service or empty ritual. True discipleship should also express itself in good works, symbolised by that wedding garment, which the unfortunate guest failed to wear.

Isn’t this why, in our opening prayer just now, we asked that God’s grace may at all times go before us and follow after and make us always determined to carry out good works? What we are seeking is the same grace that makes St Paul ready to face any challenge, because there is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. Continually to seek and to rely on God’s guidance. Isn’t this what it means to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life?

So, my dear sisters and brothers, in order for us to get into heaven, perhaps it matters less whether we are old-timers or newcomers. What’s more important is that, through our daily decisions, we keep making our home in Christ. But, if this is true, then where exactly are you making your home today?

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