Is it vain to serve God? 28 Sunday A 2017

Friends, why have many become indifferent in the world? Events around the world seem to give the wicked right. It seems that everything goes well for them. For this reason, the godly can begin to speak hard against God. Already in Malachi's book, we read this: “You have spoken hard words to me, says the Lord. Now you ask, "What have we spoken to you?" You said, "It is vain to serve God. Or what profit do we have because we keep what he has commanded us to keep, and that we go in sorrow before the Lord Sabaoth? Henceforth we deem the arrogant blessed; evildoers not only prosper but when they put God to the test they escape.’ It is important to listen to what the Lord says in this context: “But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings” (Mal 3: 13-4: 2a).

Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed that he is very concerned that the indifference between us people is spreading more and more in the world. Indifference is increasingly being globalized today. Why? It is obvious that today's globalization of indifference, rooted in a distorted and unbalanced humanism where "man has taken the place of God and, in turn, has become a victim of various forms of idolatry." Therefore, he urges us to fight that the indifference between us people is not spread across the world. He believes that "indifference to God, toward our neighbour and to the environment is linked to each other" and that they help to feed each other. Therefore, you can only counteract this indifference with an answer that tackles all its three parts. The Pope called for "a renewed humanism that gives human's right relationship to first and foremost the Creator, with his neighbour and with creation." Indifference is one of the worst things that exist; among the most wicked thing one can confront his surrounding with.  It is also a terrible accusation. It deprives the human person of value and dignity, violating all that is holy and beautiful.

Our world erects more and more boundaries between people and people, groups and groups. Our care and love are limited to certain groups. Around Europe, there is a policy that wants to close the door to others, close the borders. It was not long ago that Switzerland voted in a referendum to close its borders for EU citizens. Brexit is also a concrete act on the same trend. Today, the borders barriers erected between the EU and the rest of the world are not enough. Our world seems to shrink instead of getting bigger. We are becoming increasingly afraid of those who do not look like us, those who are different, those who are not from our country, speak our language, social class etc.

The kingdom of Heaven summarizes everything that the gospel promises. The Book of Genesis begins with a marriage between Adam and Eve. The Book of Revelation book ends with the marriage of the lamb and the wedding feast to which everyone is invited. Genesis is truly the beginning, the root, and the seed of all subsequent writings - including the message of Jesus and the revelation of the New Testament. In Genesis, we see the creation and destruction of humans through sin, at the same time the promise of salvation through the future seed of the woman; In the second book, Exodus, we see God's powerful redemption secured through the blood of the Lamb; In the third book, Leviticus, we meet the community and reconciliation of the holy sanctuary; In the fourth book Numbers, we experience the guidance of God through the wilderness, and in the fifth book, Deuteronomy, we are renewed by the faithfulness of God before we enter our inheritance. In the end, the book of Revelation, serves as a climatic "final chapter" of the story commenced in the first book, Genesis where the tree of life is restored in God's paradise, and the existence of sin and death has forever been destroyed.

God prepares a feast for all people (Isaiah 25: 6-9). It is not just for some people but for everyone. God's love and care goes beyond all boundaries. You love everything that exists and deny nothing of what you created. "These words are taken from the book of Solomon's wisdom. Where does all this hatred between people come from? Where is love? As Christians, we have a special responsibility. The one we believe in and follow crossed all boundaries. Jesus Christ broke through all barriers and died for all. Not just for a few. Therefore, he is the shepherd of all people. His goodness and grace follow all who call upon him even if they walk in the valley of the shadow of death, they shall not fear any evil.

Both the first reading and the gospel text are about feasts. In the first reading (Isaiah 25: 6-9), the Prophet speaks of a celebration that the Lord Sabaoth holds for his people. To this feast are all invited. Everybody who participates in this party receives good food, wine, they will no longer mourn and never meet death again. In other words, they will be saved. The prophet Isaiah spoke against the chosen people's disobedience to God and worldly busyness. He predicted many things about the coming Messianic era. It will be like a feast and God prepares this for everyone on Mount Zion.

With another parable, Jesus explains the nature and character of the kingdom of God. Jesus had in mind Isaiah 25 when he spoke of the parable of a king holding a wedding feast for his son. The invitation was printed and sent to a selected group. Everything is organized for the party. The only thing the invitees were required to do was to attend and enjoy themselves. When Jesus finished the parable, he concludes with an enigmatic statement: "Many are invited, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). Unfortunately, those who received the invitation refused to honour it. They even killed the servants whom the king sent to remind them that they were being expected.  The first servants were the prophets and the others were the apostles. They did not accept the servants. The king was upset and punished the city and its people. The Acts of the Apostles narrates the fulfilment of this prophecy. When we examine why the invitees not attend, we discover that they had different reason ns: they ignored the king's invitation. One group of the invited people chose to go to their fields, another went to their businesses. As it was at that time, of course, the king sent soldiers to kill those who murdered the servants.

Today, we see that the same reasons prevent many from attending the feast of the Lord in our day.  Don’t we often hear people say, "I work all day Sundays inclusive, I do not have time to worship God on Sunday." People place themselves before God and make God their messenger. They do not have time for God and their spiritual life.

The man who was without wedding clothes portrays what will happen to those who remain in sin within the kingdom. The fact that he was not wearing the special wedding clothes was a sign of lack of respect and appreciation that he was invited. According to the Book of Revelation, there are countless number of people who are invited to the feast of the Lord. It would be strange if only some are invited because we know that Jesus died for all. If you read the fate of man without the wedding cloth and fail to penetrate what is the goal of the story, it may seem that the king was unfair to him because he had no idea about the wedding party. He was not among the group invited from the beginning.  

What Jesus wants to teach is that for those who want to participate in the joy of the feast on earth, there are certain conditions to fulfil. You must equip yourself with the right garments. Paul speaks in his letter to the Ephesians about what clothes the invited ones are required to wear (6: 10-18). Through faith and the sacraments in the Church, all who enter the community of the church, the wedding clothes. Each person has the responsibility if he or she wears it. To join be welcomed into the feast requires that you keep the wedding clothes that Jesus has offered you.

The kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding party. God has a spiritual invitation to all people to attend this party. It's not just a closed group, nation or people who are invited but all people on earth. The Book of Revelation ends with the marriage of the Lamb and the banquet to which everyone is invited. The great tragedy of humanity is that many do not care and ignore to honour this invitation and to share in the joy of this feast of all feasts. Most people are happy to attend a party organized by family member, relative, mate or organization invites to but ignore the feast organized by God for his Son, our Saviour. The invitation to the Lord's party is sent to us every time we hear something about the gospel or see a person performing good deeds. Nothing should prevent us from joining the Lord's wedding party. It is utterly unreasonable for someone not to participate in it.

The great tragedy is not the evil of the wicked, but the silence of good people - the Martin Luther Kings. Every Christian has a special responsibility; a responsibility to speak out when our fellow human beings are violated. A responsibility to say stop when we see hatred and wickedness taking over. A responsibility to make love win over hatred. Our indifference is a new form of barbarism. Pope Francis says, "If the stock exchange falls in Tokyo, New York or London, it will be a disaster, but if thousands of children die of starvation, nothing happens," "Everything is about money, we need to change and instead put people at the centre. Never shall a person be sacrificed to satisfy another person.

Apostle Paul writes in today's second reading (Phil. 4: 12-14, 19-20) that everything should be done to the glory of God. Whether we live in abundance or lack, honour should be given to God, who is the beginning and end of everything.  Through him, we can do everything. Without him, we can do nothing. The name of God, YHVH, means "Spirit" (2: 7, Num 16:22), "Presence" (Exodus 3: 13-14), "Life" (verse 30:20) and "abundant compassion and truth" 34: 6-7), but It also means "I am with you", one "who keeps his promises. The name YHVH means" God was, hayah, God is, Hoveh; and God will always be, veyihyeh, meaning that he is always present and not limited by time or space. In addition, God is called Havayah, which means that he continually maintains creation through the power of his power. As the scripture says, "In Him we live, move and have our essence" (Acts 17:28, Heb. 1: 3). As it is poetically expressed in the hymns, "behind and before you defeat me, you lay your hand on me".

Paul accepted both success and adversity in life. He was often hungry and lacking food (2 Corinthians 11: 23-29). Of all the churches that Paul founded, it was only from the Philippians that he received financial support. Paul urges us to support the work of the gospel. When we give to God, it is not lost, but it is an investment for our lives that leads to a harvest. Paul speaks in his letter to the Ephesians on what clothes the invited ones are called to wear (6: 10-18). Through faith and the sacraments in the Church, all who enter the church community receive their wedding garments. To join the feast requires that you keep the wedding clothes that Jesus has offered you. It is up to everyone to come or not to come to Jesus' party. Will you care about God's invitation and what his servant is saying today or do you prevent them from gathering God's people to the heavenly feast?

An antidote to indifference and where humanity is at the center rests on the knowledge of Scripture. Studying Scripture (Torah) is a great joy because it reveals the truth to us and helps us understand the Lord of Lords. As King David said, "You show me the way to life: in your presence there is fullness of joy: on your right hand there is joy forever" (Psalm 16:11). In the church community especially in the holy Eucharist, we receive a taste of the heavenly wedding feast. It is Jesus who will meet us at his great feast. Let's wait for him with the lights of faith burning. If we fail to listen, we can repeat the mistakes of the Pharisees. We have been invited to the marriage of the lamb. In fact, we are invited since our baptism. But are we dressed in the garment of grace? If we are not, we are not better than those who did not accept the invitation. The king comes at any time and throws us out. Membership in the Church on Earth is a privilege, a guarantor that we shall enter heaven if we do what is expected of us.

In Judaism, all Jews have an obligation to read the entire scriptures every year. The last part of Torah read is called Vzot HaBerakhah, "this is the blessing". After reading this passage, this Jew will roll back to the beginning of the writing called Parashat Bereshit to begin reading the entire scripture again. You do this every year because the Talmud Torah - Torah study - is a deed that allows us to better understand the scriptures - including the New Testament. In this context, it is interesting to note that the first letter of the Torah is a bet in the word bereshit, and the last letter of the Torah is a Lamed in Israel. When we put these together we get the word "heart", which indicates that the whole of Torah - from the first letter to the last - reveals God's heart and love for us. Scripture teaches us that God chose to create the universe yesh me'ayin "out of nothing" to share his wisdom, honour and love with other creatures that he created. "You created everything and for your joy they are and created" (Rev 4:11). "For from him and through him, and to him is all" (Rom. 11:36). The purpose of your life is to learn that you are loved by God, to feel and receive the endless value you have in his eyes and to share that love with others. Each of us were created to become part of God's family. Yes, Christ became human so that we can share God's divinity. All created shall serve the glory of God. Only in this shall all find the meaning in their life.  Chikezie Onuoha MSP

Webbdesign: Peter Tynkkynen