Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Theme: PARADISE, OUR HEAVENLY HOME!
By: Fr. Benedict Agbo
Homily for Sunday October 11 2020
* Is 25 : 6 – 10, Phil 4 : 12 – 20, Matt 22 : 1 – 14.
“Heaven must be in me before I can be in heaven” – Charles Sandford.
We are looking forward to that last dismissal song of our last mass on earth :
‘Ka ndi muozi dubaa gi na Paradais …ka ha duruo gi n’obodo nso.. duruo gi n’obodo nso ahu bu Jerusalem.. Jerusalem, ulo ndokwa nke bu sooso anuri, ebe a na – ahu Chukwu anya na ndokwa juru obi ‘.
What is this Paradise going to be like? Jesus only told the repentant thief on his right side : ‘Today, you will be with me in Paradise’, Lk 23 : 43. He didn’t explain much about the nature of the place or its detailed escatological parameters. All he assured his disciples was never to let their hearts be troubled : ‘Believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house, there are many rooms… I am going to prepare a place for you’, Jn 14 : 1 – 3. St Paul described it as ‘What no eye has seen… What God has prepared for those who love him’, 1 Cor 2 : 9.
B. CHARACTERISTICS OF HEAVEN Today’s 1st reading gives us a glimpse of heaven : ‘On this holy mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food… ‘. The 1st characteristic will be HEAVENLY COMMUNION, Rom 14 : 17. The next will be PAINLESS JOY – ‘He will remove the mourning veil.. He will wipe away all fears from their eyes… No sadness or pain’. When the lady taking care of one of our deceased priests, Fr Alphonsus Nweze, who died 3 years ago was asked about Fr Nweze”s condition few minutes after his death, her response was : ‘Eshi alaa’ – meaning : ‘No more pains for Fr Nweze’.
The 3rd characteristic of heaven will be the BEATIFIC VISION. ‘That day it will be said, ‘See, this is our God in whom we hoped for salvation’. St John put it succinctly as follows : ‘We shall see him as he truly is’, 1 Jn 3 : 2. The requiem song : O PARADAIS says it all : ‘Ebe anyi ga – ezur’ ike.. Ebe anyi ga ano n’ezi udo n’otito di ebebe… Obu ebe ndi muoma na ahu Chukwu anya… n’otito di ebebe ‘.
C. THE PARABLE OF THE OPEN DOOR: THE DYNAMICS OF UNIVERSAL INVITATION AND SELECTIVE QUALIFICATION.
Old Testament invitation was through the law – O. T justification was derived from obedience to the law. In last Sunday’s gospel, call for accountability from the master was met with a wicked response from the wicked servants by seizing God’s servants and killing them, including his Son, Matt 21: 23 -28.
This Sunday, we see consequently, the New Testament dispensation of abundant grace. There is an open invitation to our heavenly paradise for the good, the bad and the ugly. This is the Parable of the Open door. Yet there is the dynamics of qualification/disqualification by the provision of the wedding garments of purity and love. At the gate perhaps were servants distributing the wedding garments (like we have in the Catholic Church today, the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist).
D. PARABLE OF THE UNINTERESTED INVITEES
If we know what heaven is going to be like, we may now be in a better position to appreciate Christ’s message in today’s parable which some homilitic scholars prefer to call the Parable of the uninterested invitees. The basic message is that there is now an open invitation for the kingdom of heaven for everybody but one thing we can be sure of is that not everyone can enter there. Christ said that ‘many are called but few are chosen’.
Who are these people who won’t enter heaven? The 1st class of people who won’t enter heaven are the unclean, Rev 21 : 27. But who is really clean, strictly speaking ? We are only washed clean by the blood of the lamb, Rev 7 : 14. This is why the Church cannot but speak of purgation as the major escape route into heaven. Let’s concern ourselves then with the people who will go to hell.
The 1st class of people who will go to hell are the wicked pagans and anti Christs who are uninterested in Christ’s invitation to Paradise. Last Sunday we addressed their wicked response of seizing God’s servants, maltreating and killing them, Matt 21 : 33 – 43.
Today, we are interested in the 2nd class of people who will still go to hell – the people who don’t have their wedding garments. The wedding garment is the sign of purification and justification for sinners. The only people who will be thrown out of Paradise are people who inspite of God’s mercy shown through his open invitation to the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, insist on wanting to wangle their way into heaven through the ‘windows and shutters’. Yes, although many are called but only few are chosen!
Eucharistic purity equips us with the wedding garment of a heart and soul characterized by humble penitence, faith, reverence, purity, etc. Today’s gospel is a mirror parable that enables us to see ourselves in this picture vis a vis our relationship with paradise – our heavenly home. Permit me to remind us of this traditional hymn that calls us for proper examination of conscience before we approach the Eucharistic table:
*Tiwe obi anyi Chukwu, gbarie obi anyi Chukwu …
The New Testament invitation comes with freedom from the law, Gal 3: 13, freedom from the flesh, Gal 5: 16 -21, freedom from the world, Jn 16: 33 and freedom from the fear of death, Heb 2: 14 -15, 1Cor 15: 54, Jn 11: 25. Contentment is not the result of self sufficiency as the Stoics taught but of Jesus’ sufficiency through the grace of Eucharistic purity. St Paul says in today’s 2nd reading that he has learnt to be content with both plenty and scarcity, Phil 4: 12 -20.
Let me conclude by reminding ourselves of the 3 surprises Fulton Sheen says we will have on the last day when we get to heaven : 1. That many we expected to be there won’t be there , 2. That many we never expected will be there, and finally 3. That ‘I, a sinner, will be there too’. As long as I look forward to Paradise (heaven), I must look always for the ‘wedding garment’ of salvation through communion with the blood of Jesus Christ.
Happy Sunday dear friends!
FR BEN AGBO.