Homily for 28th Sunday in Ordinary time year A 2014
Our gospel today (Mt 22:1-14) reminds us of one important aspect of our Christian life- time with God. Having time with God and time for God form an essential part of our Christian journey in order to really grow in holiness and virtue and to hopefully enjoy eternal life. Thank God, for inviting us here today and for your response to his call by being part of this celebration of the Eucharist, because we are giving back one hour of our time, out of 168 hours that God gives us throughout the week.
Few years ago I read a poem about the importance of giving time with and for God and I just wanted to share it with you. The title is ‘No time’.
I knelt to pray but not for long,
I had too much to do.
I had to hurry and get to work
For bills would soon be due.
So I knelt and said a hurried prayer,
And jumped up off my knees.
My Christian duty was now done
My soul could rest at ease.
All day long I had no time
To spread a word of cheer.
No time to speak of Christ to friends,
They’d laugh at me I’d fear.
No time, no time, too much to do,
That was my constant cry,
No time to give to souls in need
But at last the time, the time to die.
I went before the Lord,
I came, I stood with downcast eyes.
For in his hands God held a book;
It was the book of life.
God looked into his book and said
“Your name I cannot find.
I once was going to write it down.
But never found the time.”
Time is one of the amazing and free gifts God has given us. And there is even more amazing thing about this gift of time– and that is- God often uses this ‘time’, this gift- as an opportunity for him to encounter with us, and for us to know him, to be with him, and to work with him. But the problem is we tend to fill our time with many things that we think worthwhile or worth-doing, while we forget to give time to God who knows what’s best for our timetable and who knows what’s best for us.
To spare some time with God is one point that Jesus is hinting at in the parable (Mt 22:1-14) he told the chief priests and the elders of the people in the gospel today. As the parable suggests: ‘God is preparing a banquet for his son’s (Jesus Christ) wedding- our salvation. It is open for all, good and bad alike, but we need to give time for it. But as we heard, the ones invited made excuses not to come. They just didn’t have time with God. They just wanted to use their own time getting busy for their own gratification and selfish ambitions: e.g. going to the farm and minding their own business. They took the invitation for granted. They didn’t want to spare some of their personal time with God. And because they didn’t give time with God, they failed to understand the real intention of the host (i.e. king in the gospel) for inviting them. They even mistook the host’s intention to be invading or disrupting their private business so to stop this interference in their lives, they ‘killed the messengers’ (the prophets). Because they didn’t give time, they missed the whole point of the invitation. How can one, in his/her right mind turn down a wedding invitation-when it would have been a joyous occasion, a break from all their works?
Today God is inviting us to spend some time with him and let him be part of our timetable not just out of obligation but out of love. If we do this, amazing things happen I assure you, either with us, in us, around us or through us. Furthermore, if we are generous with our time for God, we, as the Prophet Isaiah tells us in the first Reading (Is 25:6-10), can really experience the amazing hospitality of our God, ‘the Lord of hosts who will prepare for us himself a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines.’ St Paul in our second reading today (Phil 4:12-14;19-20) also spoke of the times in his life when he experienced poverty and plenty. Paul experienced both worlds if you like but he could only say that after he has given so much of his time for Christ, after devoting all of his time to preach the gospel of Christ. Because Paul was so generous of his time and skill working for God and with God, he could only say and this is my prayer too that like St Paul, I could really say with confidence: ‘There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength’, or in the other version of this says: ‘I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.’
A way to spend time with God is through prayer- quality prayer (i.e. personal, genuine, humble, loving, and from the heart). This is not to discredit though of the formulaic prayers (e.g. rosary, chaplet of the Divine Mercy, etc.) we’re used to saying nor to discourage the use of aids to prayer such as (Bible, Breviary, Book of Devotions, etc.). Quality prayer means making the words or the formula our own, our own struggles, our own longings, our own words from our hearts, as we lift them up to God. In doing this, we can grow into a real and personal relationship with God, which is the main point in all our prayers. ‘Prayer is a relationship’, Fr Patrick O’Sullivan, a Jesuit priest would say. And Fr Pat would add: ‘‘No relationship can go very far if one of the parties is self-indulgent and has a whim of iron.’ Prayer must then be a two-way traffic- a speaking and a listening, a giving and a taking, a mutual relationship. We must take note of this too, as someone says: ‘Prayer is not a “spare wheel” that you pull out when in trouble, but it is a “steering wheel” that directs the right path throughout.’
A way to test if we are really spending a quality time with God in prayer to see how it bears fruit in our lives. Prayer doesn’t just mean communication with God, it also calls for a conversion in our part. It is not enough for us to say ‘I’ve said my prayers’ without being moved by it just as it is not enough for us to be called Christian without even striving to live as more Christ-like as we can be in our relationships with the world, with the Church and with one another. We heard this in the gospel. It wasn’t enough for a man to respond to the invitation, come to the wedding without even putting on the proper wedding attire- the garment of repentance and change of heart. Jesus has warned us this: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Mt 7:21). In other words, we are to live up to our name as a Christian by being the living presence of Christ in the world today, in what we say, in what we do, in how we live our lives, and in how we love, forgive, care and look after one another.
It is my hope and my prayer for myself and for all of you that we may use our time wisely and responsibly, that we may use it as an opportunity to do good, the strive for a better world, and to aim for the best of all rewards: eternal life with God. We still have the time to do it, let’s not waste it. Let us spend it well with God, with others especially those who are in need, and with a daily resolution to walk on the road to conversion. Otherwise, what a disappointment it would be if God would say to us in the end “Your name I cannot find. I once was going to write it down. But never found the time.”