Sunday, Oct. 9, is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalms 23:1-6; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14 or 22:1-10
Think of this week’s readings as a tour of heaven: Christ once described heaven as a house or, in some translations, “a mansion.” It is nice to think of heaven as, literally, the dream house you have always wanted. Here is the tour:
Kitchen. According to today’s first reading, the kitchen of your house in heaven is well stocked with “a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.”
Backyard. The backyard is not fenced — but that’s okay. If good fences make good neighbors here on earth, no fences make good neighbors in heaven. Says Isaiah: “He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations.”
Grounds. The Psalm mentions more features of the mansion’s ample grounds, which include a garden with a peaceful water feature: “In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me.”
Patio. We also have a patio area — or a barbecue deck, if you prefer. Says the Psalm: “You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Dining Hall. In the Gospel, we have a description of a banquet room at the mansion: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet; my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready. Come to the feast.”
This can all sound very materialistic. But it is absolutely true that heaven is designed to meet the real needs of real people. But if you think it is difficult to get a mansion on earth, you need to realize that it is just as tough — harder — to get one of these heavenly dream houses. The difference is that we all have the ready ability to do it — if we choose to.
Let’s look at what you need to do get your mansion.
Trust God. It can be hard to trust God. But there is no other way to get to the mansion. There is no map that we can use to guide ourselves there. We follow him step by step , turn by turn, like a GPS. As the Psalm puts it: “He guides me in right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.”
Love God, Not Houses. Ironically, an inordinate love for fancy houses will keep you out of the dream house the readings describe. You need to be more like St. Paul in today’s second reading: “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 of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.” So be happy with your current house — or less, if necessary. Then you will be worthy for God’s.
Appropriate Dress. In Jesus’ story about heaven, “he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?'” Then he has him thrown out. Heaven isn’t open to those who take the privilege lightly. You can only go there if you are willing to change your whole life for the experience. If you want to take possession of your dream house in the sky, spend your time here on earth becoming the new person in Christ God wants you to be, through prayer, the sacraments and service to others.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.