28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
That first reading is taken straight from the Requiem Mass readings, and it is a favourite with mourning families. It is heard amidst sadness and loss. To think it is taken straight from wedding imagery, where there is an abundance of joy and happiness. Funny how these contrasting settings coincide in the one reading, wedding and funeral. Psalm 23, which the teachers of those years made us recite again and again, has the same use, namely at funerals. And yet its imagery is full of peace, rest, abundance and being cared for with love and dedication.
Weddings have such an attraction, you can hardly resist them. Think of how everyone rushes to see the bride getting into the wedding car, ooing and aahing about the wedding dress, how they stop every thought they were busy with not to miss her coming into the church, how every eye in the church gets teared up at just about any little aspect of the wedding ceremony, and laughing at the awkward kissing the bride moment, the fuss about the striking the right pose with the newlyweds for the photo afterwards, and, always the highlight at the reception, the couple’s first dance as Mr and Mrs opening the dance floor. No wonder the Bible is so full of weddings, as we can see today.
Except for the surprising turns they take there. Like that first reading that talks of wedding and of death, of joy and sadness together, almost as if they belong together once people get involved. As if we just have that knack of bringing sadness to our joys. Jesus knows it so well. Look at the way he tells the story. Invited to a wedding and ignoring it.
“I have nothing to wear.” “It’s in the middle of the month, how do they expect me to afford a wedding gift at this time!” “Look at that monstrous wedding dress!” “Couldn’t he have stayed sober at least for one day, it’s his daughter’s wedding day, for heaven’s sake.” “She will never stay married, her parents divorced and remarried, setting some example, didn’t they?” And beyond the happy wedding day, we see how abuse creeps upon the couple and violence destroys it. And on and on we go. At the time of great joy, we know to introduce great ugliness of heart.
Because Jesus knows it so intimately, he knows exactly where to save, to heal, to make whole. He will remove the mourning veil covering us and he will destroy death forever, says the prophet in the first reading. May we live to see it in our world so filled with death and violence. We will sit down as at a wedding reception, where the Lord has prepared a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.
Mamma mia! Let’s go, we are invited too.