28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 12th 2014.
Is 25:6-10; Phil 4:12-14,19-20; Mt 22:1-14
Accepting all from God
“Many are invited but few are chosen.”
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Whatever He (God) gives, receive with gratitude; whatever He takes, give with joy.” In different situations, Filipinos express this attitude in a very common phrase, “Bahala na” which translates, “Whatever may come.” One sense of this expression is to indicate the speaker’s readiness to accept whatever may come. It is not an uncaring, nonchalant, or fatalistic approach to life but an expression that is rooted in the awareness of God’s unchanging love for us at each moment.
I heard this phrase again a few weeks ago when I found myself trapped in the school building by flood waters from a heavy downpour. I stood on the threshold of the building wondering how I was going to wade through the knee high flood that had covered the entire campus when my Filipina classmate arrived from the classroom. She took one look at the flood outside the building and exclaimed, “Well, we cannot go home today. So let us go and eat.” Strange logic – we cannot go home but we can go and eat outside the campus. Food was the last thing on my mind then but I agreed to go with her along a dry trail to a nearby restaurant. I asked her how she could calmly think of eating at such a distressing time when I was more worried about getting home through the flood. She answered, “Bahala na. We Filipinos just accept the reality that the place is flooded and make the best out of it. Thank God we can make it to the restaurant and get something to eat!” I am learning this attitude from my Filipino brothers and sisters, this readiness to accept and receive what God places before us at every moment.
Jesus’ parable about the Kingdom of heaven shows us how important it is for us to have this attitude of accepting all from God if we are going to dwell in God’s kingdom. The parable highlights the unchanging generosity of the King who gave a banquet for his son. The feast is all about the king’s son and not the worthiness of those invited. The initial invitees do not accept his invitation because they are more interested in their farms and businesses. This rejection does not diminish the generosity of the king who extends his invitation to the unprepared “good and bad” alike on the street. However one of the guests without a wedding garment seeks to mingle with the other wedding guests. Biblical scholars tell us that the wedding garments were certainly provided for each wedding guest by the host so that the guests identify with the celebrating couple. For whatever reason, this man chose to accept the invitation to the banquet but not the wedding garments that was offered to him. This explains why he is “reduced to silence” when questioned by the king. He has no excuse other than his refusal to accept all that was offered to him. Consequently, he is bound and cast out of the banquet hall.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul writes to the Philippians from his prison cell about the gift that they had sent to him in prison. He is grateful for the gift but he uses this opportunity to remind them of his “Bahala na” attitude, his readiness to accept any condition of discipleship: “I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.” He accepts it all and refuses nothing fully convinced that in the different circumstances, because God’s love never changes, he can “do all things in Him who strengthens him.”
As we pray Ps 23 in today’s liturgy, we are reminded that if we see the Lord as our shepherd, then we must be ready to face and accept changing situations in our journey with Him. We will gladly enjoy the “verdant pastures where He gives us repose” as well as the “restful waters” beside which He leads us. But we also have to “walk in the dark valleys” too. We cannot pick and choose the things that we accept from His hands if we are convinced that His love for us never changes: “I fear no evil for you are at my side, with your rod and your staff that give me courage.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, how generously do we accept all from God’s hands? In what ways are we resisting His leading us along the mysterious path to His kingdom? In what ways do we resist His leading us “along the right path for His name’s sake”? Are we completely accepting of His teaching and Commandments? Are we accepting His means of saving us through the sacraments that He instituted and guiding us through the human institution of the Church that He founded on St. Peter and the Apostles? How do we react to the difficult conditions and circumstances of our state in life? Do we become rebellious or see these as opportunities to imitate St. Paul’s “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” O how we sometimes pretend that we know the way to the kingdom of God or think that we are ready or strong enough to enter the kingdom at this moment. Let us learn the lesson of the man without a wedding garment in today’s parable and remind ourselves that all these are given to us for a purpose to prepare us for our bridal union with Christ the bridegroom in the heavenly kingdom.
Contemplating the Annunciation of Mary, we see her somewhat surprised about the words of the Angel Gabriel. The angel reminded her of God’s constant love for her, “Do not be afraid Mary for you have found favour with God.” Mary responding by mentioning her own fiat, her own “Bahala na”: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it be done to me according to your words.” She indicated her readiness to accept all from God whose love for her will never change. This is the attitude alone that embraces eternity.
Yes, we are indeed the many “good and bad” who are invited to the kingdom. We are invited only because of what Jesus Christ has accomplished on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection. His blood offered to us in this Eucharist has won us a right into the kingdom. He has clothed us with a wedding garment by granting us a participation in His own divine nature and divine sonship through His Eucharistic body.
But few will be chosen. Who are these chosen few? Those who can truly say, “Bahala na,” ready and willing to accept all from God with gratitude and refuse nothing because God loves us and His love never changes.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honour to Mary!!!