28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Is 25:6-10a; Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt 22:1-14) “Detached and Content” PDF Version
Homily for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A (2017) (Is 25:6-10a; Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt 22:1-14)
As I was finishing Grade 12 and preparing for the years to come, I was fairly certain I had decided on what would be major priorities in life. Certainly money and an abundance of material things were very important, complete with a stylish condo and a job that I would find enjoyable but would also allow for plenty of free time for outdoor activities and travel. A wife and family might enter my life at some point but there was no big rush for that to take place, and I would make some space for God, continuing to go to Mass on Sunday but not doing much more than that in the practice of my faith. I was quite certain I had a blueprint for happiness and success in both this life and that I would do enough to make sure I got into heaven, I was after all a pretty decent person.
My certainty about the guaranteed happiness and fulfillment in the life I had planned for myself was unsettled as I spent the Fall of 2001 trekking in the remote villages of Nepal, moving ever closer to the base camp of Mt. Everest and a mountain called Kala Pattar that intended to summit. For the first time in my life, I saw people in what we in the western world consider to be poverty stricken conditions. Homes were made of dirt floors, wood walls insulted with dried Yak dung, an old fashioned wood burning stove, and in most cases no television, internet, Playstation or sound system to be found! What little money they had came from agonizingly hard work as porters and mountain guides, herding yaks, running a small shop or guest house and growing a few vegetables on the top of the world to sustain them from year to year.
In summary, it was everything my planned future was not. And yet I began to realize that these people, in the midst of poverty and a yearly struggle to live in both abundance or want, possessed what I was beginning to detect was missing in my life, and that was authentic happiness. They were poor and happy, I was rich in comparison and quite miserable despite my best efforts to deceive myself that in the future I would be happy when I had everything I wanted!
Though few if any of the people of the Khumbu valley of Nepal are Christians, many have discovered the wisdom and truth found in the words of St Paul as to how to “know to live in humble circumstances; and to know how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need; for I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.”
To be an Apostle of Jesus Christ, St Paul had first of all discovered that he needed to be detached from earthly things, trusting that God knew best as to whether he would have enough to continue in his ministry or if God would take what he had away from him so that he would trust more radically in The Lord’s providence.
St Paul discovered that true strength, purpose and joy in this life comes from having this abandoning trust in Divine Providence, and a sense of gratitude that would allow him to rejoice when he had plenty of the good things of this world and to rejoice likewise when these things were taken away.
But why did he find joy in what many would consider to be an incredibly stressful and doubt filled relationship with God, where one lived in a continual dread and tension as to whether God would provide enough to carry on with life or take it all away and leave us grasping for hope to see that this situation was someone how for one’s good?
It was because St Paul had his eyes set on the Heavenly Banquet which is to come! He knew that by living with a spirit of detachment in regards to abundance or want, that his heart and soul would not be held in bondage to this life but would have the necessary freedom to desire to be in heaven and dine at the eternal feast where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and help us know that death and suffering are no more!
This was the vision the Prophet Isaiah shared with the people of Israel, that beyond the thin veil that separates this world from the glory that is to come is an invitation to dine with God forever. But how can we aspire to things unseen if our hearts are so tied down to the things that we can see and before we know it become the real purpose for our existence, to acquire a whole lot of stuff in this life but with little room in our hearts for the eternity that is to come?
When Jesus offered his parable of the Wedding Feast, he had the vision of the prophet Isaiah in mind, showing to the people of his time that the Eternal Banquet that Isaiah once saw was now beginning to take place for anyone who choose to follow Jesus Christ, to be nourished by the gift of the Holy Eucharist and given a small foretaste of the feast that would never end in Kingdom of His Heavenly Father.
It is not that God commands us to live in abject poverty and to deny us the good things of this world. He loves us and wants us to enjoy the good things of this life! But He also knows they can become false idols that prevent us from aspiring to love Him and seek to be co-workers with God in the work of bringing all people to salvation in Jesus Christ and His Church. Thus, God will give us a spirit of detachment from the things of this world and a sense of contentment with both abundance and humble circumstances.
To live our lives in this spirit of detachment and contentment is what in part will assure that we will meet Christ at the end of our lives wearing our wedding garment. Now Christ was not saying we must be wearing this garment in the literal sense! Rather, the Book of Revelation teaches us that the wedding garment is a symbol of all the good works and deeds that we performed in this life because of our faith in Jesus Christ and hope of eternal life. But how else can we live this life of charity towards others if we are not first detached from the things of this world and at peace that God will give us what we need and keep from us what could obstruct our way to heaven!?
I invite all of us to take time this Sunday and many days to come to consider how well we are living this spirit of detachment and contentment in the Lord? And if we feel especially daring in this regard, then allow these words from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to fill your heart today: “Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God. Tackle the day’s work that he charges you with, and he will give you the power to accomplish it.”