‘Thrift Store Saints’Fifteen years ago, Jane Knuth, a math teacher and mom, began volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She approached the work with typical baby-boomer hard-charging determination to “fix the world” — but over the years, the experience changed her. The poor and desperate she has been able to help have deepened her own faith and brought her to a new understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.Jane Knuth has collected stories of her experiences at “St. Vinnie’s” in a delightful book Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25c at a Time. Thrift Store Saints includes some two dozen stories about the volunteers and patrons of the St. Vincent’s thrift shop. The Kalamazoo thrift store sells everything from furniture and clothing to basic household items, but also offers financial assistance, referral services — and prayerful and emotional support — to the needy and lost.
Rather than viewing society’s poor as problems to be solved, Jane and her colleagues see them each in a completely different light: as saints who can lead us straight to the heart of Christ. Jane Knuth writes:
“From all appearances, it looks as if we are running a thrift store at St. Vincent de Paul. At our meetings we frequently get into discussions about how to better run the store. Should we raise our prices? Give away less? Not accept so many donations? Lock our dumpster? Move to a better retail location? All these issues would come up with any resale shop. Eventually, it occurs to us that our purpose is not to run the most profitable, shrewd, efficient, riff-raff-free store in town. Our purpose is to help the poor and to change our way of thinking and being. It only looks as though we run a store. The store is just our cover . . .
“I still keep looking for the ‘deserving poor’ – the innocent ones who are blatant victims of injustice and hard luck. I want to help them and no one else. From what I can see, apart from children, most poor people’s situations seem to stem from a mixture of uncontrollable circumstances, luck, and their own decisions. Same as my situation. Do I deserve everything I have? Am I somehow more moral, smarter, or a harder worker than poor people? Sometimes I am, most times I’m not. Do poor people deserve their daily struggle for existence? Are they immoral, stupid, and lazy? Sometimes they are, most times they aren’t.”
God’s image of his human family is realized in the kindness and charity extended by a small thrift store. In today’s Gospel, Jesus articulates the Father’s vision for humanity: a “banquet” at which all are respected and honored for who they are and the goodness they bring to the king’s table, be it the “table” of the classroom, the clinic, the playground, the home. If we are to be truly faithful to God’s vision, the compassion of God must transform our heart’s perspective, enabling us to see beyond ethnic stereotypes, economic distinctions, class and celebrity, to recognize every man, woman and child as made in the same image and likeness of God in which we were all created; we must be willing both to give joyfully what we have and to accept humbly what others bring to the table. God’s “banquet” is only realized when we embrace a radically new vision of humanity, a perspective that ignores suspicions, doubts and stereotypes and, instead, recognizes everyone, first, as a child of God, worthy of respect, love and compassion.
In the first reading, Isaiah proclaims the goodness of God, who is preparing a banquet for all his people on the holy mountain. The banquet symbolizes God's closeness to us and the celebration of the final victory over sin, suffering and death. This feast is not exclusively for the Israelites but for all people. God desires to invite all to his kingdom with no one excluded. The Lord comes to bring consolation to those who are sorrowing and to give new sight to those blinded by the disasters that afflict them. The call of the Christian is the call to hope in the Lord, who is concerned about everything that affects us, and will lead us to new joy that comes from being with the Lord.
Wiping away tears
The venerable servant of God, Canon Cotolengo, when but a boy of five years, was measuring with a cord one room after another. His mother rather confused, asked him what he was trying to do. “Dear mother,” was the reply, “I want to see how many beds can be placed in this house; when I grow up I should like to fill the whole house with sick people.” A tear of emotion glistened in his mother’s eyes. In 1832 he founded in Turin the ‘Little Asylum of Divine Providence’. And today it is world famous. It shelters 5000 men and embraces within its precincts a church, a number of houses, terraces and courtyards. – God invites us to get caught up with his desire for humanity and work with him to wipe away tears from cheeks and to take away people’s shame. Like Canon Cotolengo, there are some who respond to God’s call with passion and reach out to others to realize God’s vision for the human race.
Vima Dasan in ‘His Word Lives’
The Gospel parable tells us that a king desires to celebrate the marriage feast for his son and so he sends out his messengers to summon all guests. Those invited refuse to come, thus insulting the king. The king is still patient with the guests and sends a second reminder but again those invited scorn the invitation and maltreat and kill the servants, which incenses the king who destroys them. Since the banquet is all set, the king now sends his messengers to invite anyone whom they can find. And the servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the banquet hall was filled with guests. What is the point the Evangelist is trying to make through this parable? Firstly salvation is centered in Christ; it is always God who takes the initiative for salvation. We cannot do anything to start the process, faith is always a gift and it is through our faith that we are invited, as it were, to a royal banquet. If a VIP invited us to a very special occasion would we reject the invitation? Would we not think we were privileged ones to be invited? Yet, when it is Jesus who invites us, we are indifferent to His call, and busy ourselves with other matters which we believe are more important. Secondly, the parable reminds us of the patience of God, who does not give up on us. The servants in the parable stand not only for the prophets but also for the apostles and special messengers whom God sends into our lives to remind us of his call. God can call us through His word, through prayer, he can call us through the preaching, teaching and witnessing. He can call us through the least expected of people. What is important is to heed his call when it comes and not to make excuses. He sent his only son and even when he was rejected and killed God did not abandon His people. God’s response to man’s infidelity and ingratitude is unconditional love!
How can I live without my excuses?
A middle-aged woman went to a distant monastery for her first weekend retreat in many years. When she arrived at the guest house, one of the monks approached her and surprised her with a brusque question. "Why not?" "That was the first thing he said," she relates. "He had never seen me before. I hadn't even said a word. “Why not?” he questioned. I knew he had me. After all he was the retreat master." I brought up excuses: "It was a long trip.... I'm tired... the kids... the people I work with... not enough time... I guess it's my temperament." The retreat master took a long sword off the wall and gave it to the woman. "Here, with this sword, you can cut through any barriers you have." She took it and slipped away without saying a word. Back in her room, alone, she sat down and kept looking at the sword. She knew that what he said was true. But the next day she returned the sword. She muttered, "How can I live without my excuses?” Brian Cavanaugh in ‘Tales of a Magic Monastery’
Tea time with God
At the turn of the century, a man wrote in his diary the story of a young newsboy he met in the street near his home in London. It was well known in the neighbourhood that the boy was an orphan. His father had abandoned the family when the boy was a baby, and his mother had died shortly after he began selling newspapers. All attempts to place the boy either in an institution or foster home were thwarted, because the boy refused each offer of help and ran away when attempts were made to confine him. "I can take care o' myself just fine, thank ye!" he would say kindly to the old ladies, who questioned whether he had his porridge that day. Indeed he never looked hungry and his persistence in selling papers, load after load, gave the impression he spoke the truth. But the streets are a lonely place for a child to live, and the man's diary reflects a conversation he had with the child about his living arrangements. As he stopped to buy his paper one day, the man bought a little extra time by fishing around in his pocket for coins and asked the boy where he lived. He replied that he lived in an impoverished district of the city near the river bank. This was something of a surprise to the man. With more interest, he inquired, "Well, who lives with you?" The boy answered. "Only Jim. Jim is crippled and can't do no work. He's my pal." Now clearly astounded that the child appeared to be supporting not only himself but also someone who was unable to contribute any income, the man noted, "You'd be better off without Jim, wouldn't you? The answer came with not a little scorn - a sermon in a nutshell: "No sir, I couldn't spare Jim. I wouldn't have nobody to go home to. And say, Mister, I wouldn't want to live and work with nobody to divide with, would you?”
Alice Grey in ‘Stories from a Kindred Heart’
Excuses, excuses, excuses!
Once there was a tailor who mended the clothes of everybody in town, yet he himself went about with his coat in tatters. And to the embarrassment of everybody he appeared like that in Church on Sundays. One Sunday a friend said to him, “It’s a disgrace that you, a respectable tailor, should go around in a tattered coat. Shame on you for coming here dressed like that.” “But what can I do? I’m a poor man and I have to work all week to make a living.” the tailor replied. “Where am I going to find the time to mend my own clothes?” “Look,” said the friend. “Here’s £20. Think of me as one of your customers. I’m paying you to mend your own coat. “I’ll agree to that,” cried the tailor as he took the money. However, when he came to Church the following Sunday the friend noticed that once again he was dressed in his old tattered coat. Extremely annoyed, the friend said to him, “Now there is no excuse for this kind of behaviour. Didn’t I give you £20 last Sunday to mend your coat? Yet I can see that you never even touched it.” “What can I do?” said the tailor apologetically. “When I went home last Sunday and examined my coat, I realized that I’d be losing money on the job if I did it for £20!” A man like that will always find excuses!
This movie takes place in a small town in France in 1959. The town has always expressed their community life using the word “tranquilite” (tranquility). You knew what was expected of you, you knew what your place was. And if you happened to forget, someone would remind you. They trusted the wisdom of ages past, lived with the values of tradition, family, and morality. Into this town comes Vianne. She does not go to church, has a daughter without a father present, and has the gall to open a Chocolaterie right in the middle of Lent! As she opens and conducts her business, it becomes clear that she is anything but traditional. Vianne does nothing by the book. She does nothing out of obligation, but everything out of love. It is her encouragement that brings Josephine out of her abusive marriage. It is her encouragement that brings Armande together with her grandson. It is her encouragement that brings a widow of 30-some-years out of mourning and into a new relationship. The town is transformed by her Chocolaterie and her grace! –Going by our rules can bring death, living by love gives life!
Carla Thompson Powell
Banqueting at the Borders
Walking through Delhi’s Ridges, I see joggers buying bananas to feed monkeys, and in Ahmedabad, pujaris feeding chapatis to cows while starving children beg for their share. Today, Niger’s children eat weeds, Haiti’s youth eat mud cakes, while Mali’s mothers only drink water to stay alive. Today’s readings must awaken our consciences that we might conscientize the unawakened. O that today we can truly say, “take, eat, this is my body!”
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’
Accepting His Invitation –Doing His Will
A woman was touring a piano factory. First the guide showed her a large warehouse where workers were shaping wood. Next, the guide took the woman into a room where workers were building frames. Then, the guide took the visitor into a room where people, wearing face masks, were carefully sanding and varnishing the piano frames. Next, the woman visited a room where a few skilled technicians were assembling metal strings and ivory keys into the frames. Finally, the guide led the woman into a showroom, where a musician was seated at a piano playing incredibly beautiful music. Afterwards the woman thought to herself: The difference between what I saw in the warehouse room and the showroom is the difference between doing my thing and letting God do what he wants to me. The difference between what I am now and what God intends that I become.
Mark Link in ‘Challenge’
Fr. Tony Kadavil
1) Post-World War II: At the end of World War II, the Russian head-of-state gave an elaborate banquet to honor the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The Russians arrived in their best formal wear — military dress uniforms — but their honored guest did not. Churchill arrived wearing his famous zipper coveralls that he had worn during the German bomb attack in London. He thought it would provide a nostalgic touch the Russians would appreciate. They did not. They were humiliated and insulted that their prominent guest-of-honor had not considered their banquet worthy of his best clothes. Wearing the right clothing to a formal dinner honors the host and the occasion; neglecting to wear the right clothing is an insult. Weddings were such an important occasion in Palestine in Christ’s days that people were expected to wear the proper clothing to show appreciation and respect for the invitation — clothing, in fact, provided by the host! In today’s Gospel, Jesus demands, and provides, the wedding garment of righteousness from his followers. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) “When I am grown up, I should like to fill the whole house with sick people.” The venerable servant of God, Canon Cottolengo, when but a boy of five years, was measuring with a cord one room after another. His mother, rather confused, asked him what he was trying to do. “Dear mother,” was the reply, “I want to see how many beds can be placed in this house: when I am grown up, I should like to fill the whole house with sick people.” A tear of emotion glistened in his mother’s eyes. In 1832 he founded at Turin the ‘Little Asylum of Divine Providence’, and today it is world famous. It shelters 5000 men and embraces within its precincts a Church, a number of houses, terraces and courtyards. [Joseph Aloysius Krebs How to Comfort the Sick (New York: Benziger, 1898) in Kelly Library, University of Toronto; see Google, USA Archives] -Like Canon Cottolengo, there are some who respond to God’s call with passion and reach out to others to realize God’s vision for the human race. But there are many who, like the invited guests in the parable (Mt 22:5), are complacent in their response to the Lord’s invitation. (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) “We didn’t know you had Catholic grandparents.” Huey Long was a very colorful Louisiana politician who had hopes of running for the presidency in 1936. He began as an unschooled farm boy and ended up in the governor’s mansion, one of the most popular politicians in the history of the state. Long was born in the central part of Louisiana, and when he first campaigned for governor, he was given some advice about the voters in the New Orleans area. “South Louisiana is different from the northern part of the state,” he was told. “We have a lot of Catholic voters down here.” Long nodded knowingly and went out to make his speech. It began, “When I was a boy, I’d get up at six every Sunday morning, hitch our old horse up to the buggy, and take my Catholic grandparents to Mass. I’d bring them home and then take my Baptist grandparents to Church.” The speech was a rousing success. Afterward, a New Orleans political boss said, “Huey, you’ve been holding out on us. We didn’t know you had Catholic grandparents.” Huey looked at him slyly and said, “We didn’t even have a horse!” [Joe Claro, The Random House Book of Jokes (New York: Random House, Inc., 1990).] Don’t let anybody mislead you. Around the banquet table of God there won’t be Baptists, or Catholics, or Methodists. There won’t even be a head table reserved for the very saintly. There will only be sinners for whom Christ died. That includes you and me. Everyone is invited. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) Late have I come for the Heavenly Banquet! An old couple, having been married almost 60 years, died in a car crash. They had been in good health for the previous ten years mainly due to the wife’s interest in health, food, and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and master bath suite, Jacuzzi and lavish buffet breakfast. “How much can we eat?” asked the old man. “Don’t you understand?” Peter replied. “This is Heaven, it’s all free!” After a sumptuous breakfast the old couple went to the clubhouse of Heaven’s extensive golf grounds and saw the lavish buffet lunch. “Well, where are the low-fat and low-cholesterol tables?” the old man asked timidly. Peter replied, “That’s the best part…you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven.” The old man looked at his wife angrily and said, “This is all your fault. If it weren’t for your bran muffins and sugar-free diet, I could have been here ten years ago!”
6) Toothless grandma at the heavenly banquet. A little girl came home from Sunday school and said to her mother: “Mummy teacher told us that God puts people in this world so that they can get ready for a big banquet in Heaven.” “Yes, that is right,” she said. “But why doesn’t grandma get ready for that banquet by getting a set of new teeth from her dentist?” Mother replied: “It is because she knows that God will give her a brand-new set of strong and beautiful teeth in heaven.”
7) “That’s a preacher.” The writer Bill Henderson recalls meeting a man aboard a cruise ship who claimed to be an expert in guessing professions. “See that man over there,” he said. “He is a physician.” Bill checked and sure enough that was right. “How could you tell?” he asked the man. “Well,” he said, “I saw the caring lines on his forehead and could tell he was a person of great compassion.” Bill Henderson pointed to someone else and said, “What about him? What does he do?” “That’s a lawyer,” the expert said. Bill checked and sure enough, he was. The expert explained that the man had a scholarly look and was somewhat formal, indicating an attorney. Then Bill pointed to another man. The expert studied him and said, “That’s a preacher.” Bill approached the man and asked, “Are you a preacher?” “No,” said the man. “I’m just seasick; that’s the reason I look so sad.” How strange that many Christians have a long-faced reputation. Jesus could not have been that way; if he had been, children would not have clung to him so readily. (Sermons.com).
8) “Laughter and good red wine.” Hilaire Belloc wrote: “Wherever the Catholic sun does shine, // there is always laughter and good red wine.” Would Belloc say that about us? We are told it takes seventeen face muscles to smile but forty-three to frown. Laughter is the only tranquilizer yet developed that has no side effects. Our expression is the most important garment we wear. Yet, how many of us know fellow-Christians who never smile? Maybe somebody should try smiling at them!
1) Sunday Mass with helium balloons? At an Evangelical church conference in Omaha, people were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt joy in their hearts. All through the service worshippers kept releasing balloons. At the end of the service it was discovered that most of them still had their balloons unreleased. If this experiment were repeated in our Church today, how many of us would still have our balloons unreleased at the end of the Mass? Many of us think of God’s House as a place for seriousness, a place to close one’s eyes and pray, but not a place of celebration, a place of joy. The parable of the Great Supper in today’s Gospel paints a different picture. The Christian assembly is a gathering of those who are called to the Lord’s party. In the Eucharist, we say of ourselves, “Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.” — The Lord invites us to a supper, a banquet, a feast. Can you imagine a wedding feast in which everyone sits stone-faced, cold and quiet? (Fr. Essou M.) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) J.J & Soli Deo Gloria: Johann Sebastian Bach understood that musical talent is a grace of God. On almost all of his manuscripts Bach placed two sets of initials. At the end he wrote the letters, “S.D.G.” and, at the beginning, “J.J.” S.D.G., SOLI DEO GLORIA = to God alone be the glory. And J.J., JESU JUVET=Jesus, help me.” (3) That sounds like a pretty good theme for worship: “Jesus help me,” and “To God alone be the glory.” — People who understand that we are not here because we deserve to be, or because we have to be, do not have to make excuses on Sunday morning (Rev. James E. Rimmer) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) Lame Excuses: The Toronto Star invited teachers to submit excuses they had received from their students. They received these examples: A student explaining why he was late: “I was kidnapped by aliens and interrogated for three hours.” Another student, telling why he had failed to turn in his essay: “The bus driver read it and liked it so much he kept it to show to his passengers.” Another: “I got mugged on the way to school. I offered him my money, my watch, and my penknife but all he wanted was my essay.” Mike, a 14-year old, came up with a “watertight” excuse for arriving at school an hour late with his pants soaked to the knees: “I was just about to board the bus when I found I’d lost my ticket. Since it would take too long to walk to school, I hopped a fence onto a golf course. I headed for a creek that criss-crossed several fairways until I found a likely spot for lost balls. Retrieving three balls from their watery graves, I then made for the clubhouse where I sold the balls for bus fare! And that’s why I’m late.” Mike’s entry won. — In today’s Gospel, Jesus narrates a list of such lame excuses from the invited guests. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) Who has time for God’s Banquet? There is not enough time. Particularly is that true for today’s wives and mothers. A study by Bryn Mawr College one hundred years ago (1920), stated that women then devoted more than eighty hours a week to cleaning the house, cooking meals, and taking care of the children. Did things get better? You know the answer to that. Another study fifty years later reported that full-time housewives spent more hours doing laundry in the 1970s than they did in the 1920s, despite all the new washing machines, dryers, detergents, and bleaches. The main change was that the family had acquired more clothing and now had even higher expectations about cleanliness and grooming. In the second decade of the twenty-first century (2020), few women can even afford to dream of devoting full time to their families. Thus, the extraordinary demands of running a home are added to running an office or a classroom or a business. Who has time for God’s Banquet? Many men have the same problem. A University of Michigan study found that one-third of all physicians in the United States are so busy working that they are two years behind the breakthroughs in their own field. That’s scary. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) “I’m too old to make new friends.” When John Kennedy was president of the United States, he invited a number of accomplished artists to a White House banquet. Among those invited was the then aging William Faulkner. He was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays. Faulkner turned down the invitation, saying, “I’m too old to make new friends.” It is possible, you know, to turn down an invitation. It is thinkable to do the unthinkable, to excuse yourself from a fabulous opportunity. — According to today’s Gospel text, the Lord God, Creator, Ruler, Sustainer, and Heir of the universe gives an open invitation to all people to come and feast with Him at a banquet table. And? Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) “Happy Birthday, Agnes. “ A few years ago that wonderfully creative Christian sociologist, Rev. Tony Campolo, traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, for a speaking engagement. He flew all the way from Pennsylvania to Hawaii and had an awful case of jet lag. Therefore, at 3:00 AM, he was wide awake. Tony found a donut shop near his hotel. As he sat, there sipping coffee and glancing at a newspaper, the door to the diner swung open and in marched eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes. Their talk was loud and crude. Tony was just about to make his getaway when he overheard one of the women say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m gonna be thirty-nine.” One of her friends responded in a sarcastic tone, “So, what do you want from me, a birthday party?” “No,” she said. “I’ve never had a birthday party in my life. Too late to start now.” Suddenly, Tony Campolo had an idea. As soon as the women had left, he said to Harry, the owner of the diner, “Do those women come in here every night?” “Yep,” he said, “about this same time. Hope they weren’t bothering you.” “No,” Tony said, “but I have an idea. The one sitting next to me is going to have a birthday tomorrow. I’ll pay the bill if we can have a little birthday party for her.” A smile spread across Harry’s face. “That’s a good idea. Her name is Agnes.” He called his wife out of the kitchen area and told her about it. They agreed to bake the cake. The next morning by 3:00 AM Campolo had decorated the diner with crepe paper and had made a big sign reading, “Happy Birthday, Agnes.” Word had gotten around somehow because by 3:00 AM every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. Wall-to-wall prostitutes and Tony Campolo. At 3:30 AM on the dot, Agnes walked in and confronted the cake with burning candles and the crowd singing loudly, “Happy Birthday.” She was flabbergasted, stunned, shaken. Her eyes moistened. Then after she blew out the candles, she completely lost it and openly cried. After the party was over, Tony asked the group if he could say a prayer. He prayed for Agnes and everyone else in the group. Then after everyone was gone, he thanked Harry for going along with the party. Harry said, “Hey, you didn’t tell me you were a preacher. What Church do you belong to?” In one of those moments when just the right words came, Tony answered, “I belong to a Church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:00 AM.” — Today’s Gospel describes a King’s party for the ordinary people. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) “Would you please hand me my green dress?” Television journalist Hugh Downs and his wife once attended a function in Washington. When the time came to return to New York, they discovered that their flight had been cancelled due to bad weather. Downs immediately called the front desk and was informed that they could catch a five o’clock train, which was leaving in 45 minutes. Mrs. Downs was showering, and to save time, Hugh hurriedly packed all their belongings, called the bell captain and asked that the bags be rushed right over to the station and put on the train. A bellhop came immediately and got them. Five minutes later, Mrs. Downs stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel. “Dear,” she asked, “would you please hand me my green dress?” — We’re not told how Mr. and Mrs. Downs resolved this dilemma, but it reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the king’s wedding banquet and wedding garment. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) “It’s the only thing!” When Vince Lombardi was hired as head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1958, the team was in dismal shape. A single win in season play the year before had socked the club solidly into the basement of the NFL, and sportscasters everywhere used it as the butt of loser jokes. But Lombardi picked and pulled and prodded and trained and discipled the players into become a winning team. They were NFL champions in three consecutive seasons, and took the game honors for the first two Super Bowls. Lombardi was a drill sergeant and a strategist, finding and developing the best in each of his players individually and then crafting a team community that could visualize the prize. “Winning isn’t everything,” he was often quoted as saying, “It’s the only thing!” His Packers proved him true, time and time again.– This is the problem Jesus pointedly identifies in today’s parable. God is the greatest coach, but the team is unwilling to follow. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) God’s grace is a costly gift. A small boy was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless, he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. His father met him in the living room and said nothing. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father’s full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew up, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.” — Our sin is serious business. God’s grace is a costly gift. Jesus explains it today through the parable of the wedding garment. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) “No, Jesus is in my heart.” An amusing story appeared recently in the magazine Today’s Christian Woman. A woman took her four-year-old granddaughter, Amanda, to the doctor’s office with a fever. The doctor looked in her ears and said, “Who’s in there? Donald Duck?” She said, “No.” He looked in her nose and said, “Who’s in there? Mickey Mouse?” Again, she said, “No.” He put his stethoscope on her heart and said, “Who’s in there? Barney?” Amanda replied, “No, Jesus is in my heart. Barney is on my underwear.” (“What’s Up, Doc?” “Small Talk,” May/June 1996, p. 25.) — I don’t guess it matters who’s on your underwear if Jesus is in your heart. And if Jesus is in your heart, your life will be clothed in proper apparel Faith, Hope, Love, forgiveness, kindness, and all the virtues of the Christian life. And you will not be speechless at the wedding feast, for you will be properly dressed. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) “I’m too busy sending telegrams to build fires.” There is a good story from years ago about a top executive with a telegraph company who went on a trip. It was extremely cold outside when he arrived at the bus station, so he went into a local telegraph station hoping to get warmed up. When he got inside, however, it was cold. He noticed there was no fire in the fireplace. He said to the young telegraph operator, “Why don’t you build a fire in this place and warm it up?” The young man said, “Listen mister, I’m too busy sending telegrams to build fires.” The man then told this boy that he was the vice-president of the company and that he wanted him to send a telegram to the home office at once. The message was, “Fire this man immediately.” A moment later the young telegraph operator brought a load of wood into the office and began to build a fire. The executive asked, “Young man, have you sent that telegram yet?” The young telegraph operator said, “Listen mister, I’m too busy building fires to send telegrams.” –The point is that somewhere in life we have to set priorities. We have to decide what really matters and make certain that the really important things are done. Time with our family, service to our community, attention to our work, relaxation, self-improvement we could develop a list of important issues that would go on and on. Somewhere we must draw a line. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) We have crowded out God. A mental hospital developed an unusual test to determine when their patients were ready to go back into the world. They would bring the patient being considered for release into a room with a sink. When the patient entered the room a faucet over the sink was already on, the sink was overflowing, and water was pouring onto the floor. The patient was handed a mop and asked to clean up the mess. If the patient had enough sense to turn off the faucet before starting to mop up the water, the doctors concluded he was ready to go back into society. But if he started mopping with the water still running, more treatment was needed. [Vance Havner, The Vance Havner Devotional Treasury: Daily Meditations for a Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976).] — You and I need to stop mopping long enough to look up and see if the faucet is still running. We need to go to the root of our restless, confused lives. We have crowded out God, and without God life is simply a whirlwind of meaningless activity. We need to center our lives in Him and His purpose. Then we discover that life truly is a feast. He offers an invitation to His banquet table. Will you take time to accept? Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “I am Jewish and this Star of David… .” A first-grade teacher gave her 6-year-olds an assignment. The next day they were to bring in a symbol of their religion. The next morning, she called on Isaac, who stood up and said, “I am Jewish, and this Star of David is the symbol of my religion.” The teacher then called upon Mary, who stood up saying, “I am Catholic and this Rosary is a symbol of my religion.” Next came Bobby. “I am Presbyterian,” he said, and held up a casserole dish. — Have you ever noticed how often food and drink are mentioned in the New Testament? How about banquets and weddings? Jesus even called the Church, his Bride! In our text for today, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a royal banquet. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) “We looked so gorgeous we went to the Episcopal Church.” Perhaps you have heard of the family that moved into the neighborhood, and the little country Church decided to reach out to the family. When they arrived at the doorstep the members of the Church were surprised to find that the family had 12 kids and were for the most part poor. They invited the family to services and said goodbye. Later that week the Church responded to their need. They delivered a package to the family and said, “We want you to know that you and your entire family are welcome at our Church anytime. We have bought you these gifts and we want you to feel comfortable and at ease in our congregation. We hope you can use these,” and they left. The family opened the package to find 14 suits of clothing, beautiful clothes for every member of the family. Sunday came and the congregation waited for the family, and they waited. The family never showed. Wondering what could have possibly happened, the members of the Church returned after lunch to the home and found the family just getting back, all dressed in their new clothes. “We don’t mean to be nosey but we would like to know what happened. We had hoped to see you this morning in Church,” the leader of the Church said. The father spoke up. He said, “Well, we got up this morning intending to come. And we sure do appreciate your invitation. But after we showered, shaved, and dressed, why we looked so gorgeous we went to the Episcopal Church.” — That’s a funny way of talking about a serious problem. Invitations are sent to many to come to Church but so few people respond, it’s frustrating. Many of you have reached out to neighbors or friends and asked them to come to Church, and you know all too well the disappointment, how few respond. Maybe that is why we find this morning’s parable so familiar. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) “That’s a preacher.” The writer Bill Henderson recalls meeting a man aboard a cruise ship who claimed to be an expert in guessing professions. “See that man over there,” he said. “He is a physician.” Bill checked and sure enough that was right. “How could you tell?” he asked the man. “Well,” he said, “I saw the caring lines on his forehead and could tell he was a person of great compassion.” Bill Henderson pointed to someone else and said, “What about him? What does he do?” “That’s a lawyer,” the expert said. Bill checked and sure enough, he was. The expert explained that the man had a scholarly look and was somewhat formal, indicating an attorney. Then Bill pointed to another man. The expert studied him and said, “That’s a preacher.” Bill approached the man and asked, “Are you a preacher?” “No,” said the man. “I’m just seasick; that’s the reason I look so sad.” — How strange that many Christians have a long-faced reputation! Jesus could not have been that way; if he had been, children would not have clung to him so readily. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about a royal banquet. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) Shirt of a contented man: According to an old fable, there once was a King who suffered from a very painful ailment. The royal doctor advised the King that he would be cured if he found a contented man and wore his shirt night and day. Messengers were sent throughout the Kingdom in search of such a person. Several months passed and finally the messengers returned to the palace, but, with no shirt. “Couldn’t you find one contented person in all my realm?” asked the King, his disappointment audible in his voice. “Yes, Your Majesty,” the messenger replied, “we found one, just one, contented man in the Kingdom.” “Well then”, demanded the King, “where is his shirt?” Quietly, the answer came back, “He had no shirt.” — Today’s second reading tells us that Paul experienced similar contentment. So content was he in his relationship with Jesus that Paul believed that everything else paled into insignificance. If he were hungry or filled to satisfaction; if he were humiliated or raised up in honor; if he had what he needed or if he were totally bereft . . . it was of no consequence to Paul because his value system centered on one priority. That priority was the person of Jesus Christ in whom Paul found the strength for everything he was asked to do and for everything he had to suffer for the sake of the ministry he exercised in Jesus’ name. (Sanchez Files) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) A parable applied to me, not to them: An old Baptist preacher’s story tells of a parishioner who greeted his minister at the close of the service with the same observation, Sunday after Sunday: “You really gave it to them today, Preacher!” Over time, the minister became concerned that this parishioner never seemed to consider anything in a sermon to be applicable to himself. He always seemed to exult in the fact that the preacher had given it “to them,” whoever them happened to be. At long last, there came a Sunday when a heavy snowstorm kept everybody away from Church except for the preacher and this particular parishioner. Abandoning the sermon he already had prepared for that morning, the preacher decided to focus exclusively on the sins and shortcomings he had noticed in the life of his singular captive audience. When the sermon and the service were finished, the lone parishioner came to the door and shook the preacher’s hand as he did every Sunday. The preacher waited, wondering how this parishioner would react to the blistering sermon he just had heard. “Well, Preacher,” the parishioner began, “If they’d been here today, you would really have given it to them!” (Fr. Paul Andrew). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) Do you remember the “come as you are” parties of our youth? When I was young, right around the time when the Earth’s crust was cooling, people used to have “Come as You Are” parties. For those under 30, I’ll explain. You’d get a phone call and whatever you were wearing at that moment, was what you had to wear to a party that weekend. Folks would show up in jammies and slippers, in their gardening grubbies, in paint-spattered overalls, and everyone thought this was hilarious. Really, they did. The honor system was, well, honored, and people blushingly wore what you “caught” them in. See, that was before pajamas, slippers, torn up jeans and ragged tops became the outfit de rigueur for everything from the opera to fancy restaurants. Today you see people in the most casual of attire everywhere – at weddings, at airports, at the courthouse – places where, only a few years ago, a person “wouldn’t be caught dead” in anything but their Sunday best. (Jomi Hilton). — Today’s Gospel story tells us what happened to one such invitee for a royal banquet who ignored the dress code. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) “Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25c at a Time.” Fifteen years ago, Jane Knuth, a math teacher and mom, began volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She approached the work with typical baby-boomer hard-charging determination to “fix the world” — but over the years, the experience changed her. The poor and desperate she has been able to help have deepened her own Faith and brought her to a new understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Jane Knuth has collected stories of her experiences at “St. Vinnie’s” in a delightful book Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25c at a Time. Thrift Store Saints includes some two dozen stories about the volunteers and patrons of the St. Vincent’s thrift shop. The Kalamazoo thrift store sells everything from furniture and clothing to basic household items, but also offers financial assistance, referral services — and prayerful and emotional support — to the needy and lost. Rather than viewing society’s poor as problems to be solved, Jane and her colleagues see them each in a completely different light: as saints who can lead us straight to the heart of Christ. Jane Knuth writes: “I still keep looking for the ‘deserving poor’ – the innocent ones who are blatant victims of injustice and hard luck. Do poor people deserve their daily struggle for existence? Are they immoral, stupid, and lazy? Sometimes they are, most times they aren’t.”– God’s image of His human family is realized in the kindness and charity extended by a small thrift store. In today’s Gospel, Jesus articulates the Father’s vision for humanity: a “banquet” at which all are respected and honored for who they are and the goodness they bring to the King’s Table, be it the “table” of the classroom, the clinic, the playground, the home. If we are to be truly faithful to God’s vision, the compassion of God must transform our heart’s perspective, enabling us to see beyond ethnic stereotypes, economic distinctions, class, and celebrity, to recognize every man, woman and child as made in the same image and likeness of God in which we were all created; we must be willing both to give joyfully what we have and to accept humbly what others bring to the table. (Quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) Church: The Only Thing in Town That Has Not Changed: It is instructive to drive through ritzy developments – or what David Brooks once called “sprinkler cities” – and notice that everything a person could possibly want was thought of by the real estate developers. This can be seen in lots of places, including certain sections of northern Michigan along the Lake Michigan coast, an area that has recently seen an explosion of multi-million-dollar homes on the choicest lakefront lots. As that area has seen a sharp spike in wealthy residents, lots of things expanded accordingly. Malls needed to be built or upgraded, more movie screens and golf courses were required, lush horse stables were erected, world-class restaurants opened and flourished, and even supermarkets needed to add gourmet sections so that all the ingredients for truly high-end cooking could be found. About the only thing in this town that did not change was worship space. Despite a huge influx of new residents, somehow or another the same old white clapboard country church that has been there for years continues to suffice. Curious, isn’t it? But for those busy making a life in this world, this is often the case. — So also, in this parable such folks received the king’s engraved invitation and responded, “Sounds great but I really need to keep an eye on the market today. Can I get a rain check?” (Rev. Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations; Quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) Clothing and Spiritual Change: Clothing is a common New Testament metaphor for spiritual change. Paul wrote in Romans, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Rom 13:14). And in First Corinthians, “The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:53). In Colossians, we read, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12). Finally, in First Peter we are admonished, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'” (1 Peter 5:5). Being clothed anew is a consistent New Testament expression for holiness and righteousness. The old clothes have to come off and new ones need to be put on. — Today’s Gospel text confronts us with the paradox of God’s free invitation to the banquet with no strings attached and God’s requirement of “putting on” something appropriate to that calling. The theological point is that we are warned of the dire consequences of accepting the invitation and doing nothing except showing up. (Rev. Mickey Anders, When Showing Up Isn’t Enough. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) Strength for Everything: When World War II broke out, Dr. William S. Butler of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, felt duty-bound to join the Army Medical Corps. He was assigned to a post as remote as possible from his family and his native village – the steaming forests of New Guinea. Treating the wounded and victims of strange equatorial diseases was a good learning experience. But Dr. Butler and his outfit were not in a medical school. They were living right in the middle of a jungle war, constantly exposed to bombs and heavy artillery. The army physician learned there was only one real antidote to fright. “Prayer,” he wrote to his college roommate, has aided us in many a ticklish moment and fortified our courage. I have said more prayers in the past months than in all my life. It gives one the needed push when spirits lag a bit and takes the bite out of the shells and airplanes. I wonder how men get along who are without religion of any kind. Personally, I don’t believe that man exists. Please remember us in your prayers.”– “….In Him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything.” (Philippians, 4:13. Today’s second reading). ( -Father Robert F. McNamara). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
23) July 4th celebration and the Gospel banquet: The following modern-day account of a July 4 celebration gives a glimpse into the importance of a shared meal and the abundant riches of the heavenly banquet (cf. Erika Bentsen, Daily Guideposts 2014, p. 204). It’s the savory smell of tri-tip barbecuing over mountain mahogany. It’s the sight of long tables loaded down with countless macaroni or potato salads, baked beans, casseroles, fruit and veggie platters. It’s overflowing baskets of rolls. It’s the pies and homemade ice-cream waiting on ice in the shade. It’s the boisterous din of conversation among country neighbors, almost clannish and isolated the rest of the year, coming together en masse to celebrate Independence Day. It’s that brief pivotal lull between irrigating and haying season in our valley; the last chance for neighbors to get together and socialize before the long, arduous process of gathering and storing forage against the coming winter. Most of us won’t see each other for months, if not until next year. As the dinner triangle clangs, there’s a whoop of joy and laughter. We bow our heads as one for the blessing. I steal a glance over the assembled crowd: cowboys and Indians. Retirees from California. Ranch kids. Old time families and recent imports. Dear friends and complete strangers. Rich and poor. All races and all walks of life. Each of us came to this valley in pursuit of the American dream. My heart swells with pride at our great nation. (Lectio Divina). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).L/20
"We don't mean to be nosey but we would like to know what happened. We had hoped to see you this morning in church," the leader of the church inquired.
That's a funny way of talking about a serious problem. Invitations are sent to many to come to church but so few people respond. It's frustrating. Many of you have reached out to neighbors or friends and asked them to come to church and you know all too well the disappointment, how few respond.
Maybe that is why we find this morning's parable so familiar...
About the only thing in this town that did not change was worship space. Despite a huge influx of new residents, somehow or another the same old white clapboard country church that has been there for years continues to suffice. Curious, isn't it? But for those busy making a life in this world it is often the case. So also in this parable such folks received the king's engraved invitation and responded, "Sounds great but I really need to keep an eye on the market today. Can I get a rain check?"
Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
In Colossians, we read, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12).
Finally, in First Peter we are admonished, "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'" (1 Peter 5:5).
Being clothed anew is a consistent New Testament expression for holiness and righteousness. The old clothes have to come off and new ones put on.
This text confronts us with the paradox of God's free invitation to the banquet with no strings attached and God's requirement of "putting on" something appropriate to that calling. The theological point is that we are warned of the dire consequences of accepting the invitation and doing nothing except showing up.
Mickey Anders, When Showing Up Isn't Enough
approached the man and asked, "Are you a preacher?" "No," said the man. "I'm just seasick; that's the reason I look so sad."
Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, Sermons.com
Many Christians have that concept of God: if we miss a deadline, God will simply extend it. They do not take the judgment of God seriously...
The Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14)
c. In "The Wedding Feast", the wickedness and rebelliousness of the religious leaders is even more vividly described - Mt 22:1-14
[Let's read the parable beginning in Mt 22:1 (READ). Now let's spend a few moments taking a closer look...]
A. AN INVITATION SPURNED (1-10)
b. To not wear the provided garment showed a lack of respect and appreciation
c. No real excuse could be offered for not wearing one ("he was speechless")
b. The punishment described is similar to that found in other parables - Mt 13:42,50
b. The invitation (call) of God is extended to many, but few receive it in such a way to be among the "chosen"
[This parable was clearly told in response to the rejection of the King's Son and His Kingdom by the Jewish nation. However, elements of the parable apply to us as well, for the invitation to attend "The
II. THE PARABLE APPLIED
c. In so doing, they despise riches of God's grace and store up for themselves God's righteous indignation - Ro 2:4-11
B. ARE YOU ATTIRED FOR THE WEDDING?
1) E.g., trying to obtain salvation based upon their own good works
2) E.g., trying to obtain salvation on faith without repentance and obedience