28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A)
Good morning and happy Columbus Day weekend.
Christopher Columbus, for me, symbolizes perseverance. Reportedly born in the seaport city of Genoa, Italy, he was mesmerized by the sea and became a sailor and explorer.
If the world was round, he surmised, you can reach the east by sailing west around the globe. But no one would finance the voyage; they all told him to “get lost.”
Columbus didn’t give up. Eventually some Spanish advisors convinced Ferdinand and Isabella to finance the voyage. Sure, it was a gamble. But it paid off. Columbus was a derring-do sailor, a skilled navigator, a man of vision. He never gave up on his dream of reaching the east by sailing west.
And he challenges us not to give up on our dreams. Not all of our dreams will come true, but some will if we persevere. That’s one lesson we can learn from Columbus on this weekend.
The Word of God carries us back in our imaginations to the eighth century before Jesus (the 700s BC) to a man by the name of Isaiah. The author of Isaiah speaks about a future in which God will gather all people together for a banquet of scrumptious food and tasty wine. It sounds like a party; and everyone loves a party.
Living in the presence of God is Isaiah’s vision of the future. And Isaiah may be asking you and me: what is our vision of the future? Living forever in the presence of God? And what are we doing now to make that vision a reality for tomorrow?
Paul in his letter to the Christian community at Philippi in Greece says he can do much good through the power or grace of God within himself. Paul can do all things in the God who strengthens me. He trusts completely in the power of God and to God alone, Paul proclaims, be glory and praise.
Paul may ask us: do we trust in the power or grace of God, especially when things are not going our way…when what is happening is the opposite of what we want to happen.
And in the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about a king who invites his so-called friends to a banquet for his son. But the king’s friends refuse the invitation for one reason or another. Some even killed his messengers. And so the king says: forget these so-called friends of mine and go out into the streets and invite whomever you find.
The point of the parable is simple enough: God invites to the banquet of eternal life all people who have a right attitude; yes, people who seek an authentic or genuine relationship with God and with their fellow human beings; people who forgive so-called injuries done to them and are at peace with themselves and with others and with God.. .Yes, forgiveness and reconciliation and peace are the clothes we have to wear if we are to sit at God’s banquet table.
Now the image of a banquet, people sitting around a table, can conjure up images of our own dinner tables. In fact, for me, the family dinner table is the most important piece of furniture in any home.
Think about it. Memorable things often take place around the table. Families and relatives renew their common bonds when they “break bread” around a common table at thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter. Families also celebrate important transitions in life—birthdays, marriages, graduations, retirements—around a table.
And sometimes families even have arguments around tables. But that’s ok. An argument can be a positive sign that we care enough to disagree. And even if families argue around a table now and then, they also share plenty of good things around that same table.
I may be dating myself when I quote Erma Bombeck, a columnist who wrote humorously about family life for hundreds of newspapers. In one of her books about tough love, titled “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I doing in the Pits” she wrote that someday when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a parent, I’ll tell them:
“I loved you enough to bug you about where you were going, with whom, and what time you would get home. And I loved you enough to accept you for what you are, not what I wanted you to be.”
She and every good parent knows that real love is unconditional; yes unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness, and unconditional acceptance; and unconditional love always seeks what is best for a son or daughter, even if the son or daughter doesn’t think so at that particular moment.
Moreover, family life is “where we work out our salvation” to paraphrase St. Paul. Family life is holy ground. Why? Because Jesus himself spent most of his earthly life in a family. And if ordinary family life was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us.
Holiness is the capacity to love and be loved, to forgive and to be forgiven. We all make mistakes.
And yes, even in a holy family there is conflict; even in a holy family people sometimes hurt one another. We may not always be nice to one another (in fact sometimes we may be downright rude and crude). But afterwards we say we’re sorry, we forgive, and we keep on trying to love.
A holy family also learns to face up to problems and do something about them: whether it’s the death of a loved one, or illness, addictions, or unemployment, poor grades or whatever.
A wholesome family life means living together in love, compassion, forgiveness, humor and the stress of everyday life.
I would like to suggest three ways in which we can continue to make family life even holier:
--First, make family a priority. Spend time together as a family, even if it’s only through the Internet when necessary. What a family does together is not as important as that a family does things together.
--Second, give yourself a pat on the back each day. Often we’re doing much better than we give ourselves credit for. Always accent the positive in yourself, in others and in every situation in human life.
--And finally, make the most of prayer at family meals. Light a candle, for example, on special days. Maybe even sing a line from a song: “Amazing grace” or a favorite song of yours. The point is: In your own words, thank God for one another and for the food everyone is about to eat.
I pray that our faith in God will inspire all of us to draw closer to one another in our family relationships and in our relationships with one another, And then we will truly experience a faith-filled family life here and in that heavenly banquet to which Isaiah and Jesus point us in today’s Word of God.