Thursday in the 20th Week of the Year, August 22, 2019 

All Are Invited To The Kingdom of God
The first reading reflects the primitive conditions and the moral underdevelopment of the period of the Judges. Jephthah, a man of good will and a dedicated servant of Yahweh, lacks the moral discernment to distinguish between the binding force of an imprudent vow and respect for the human person. However, he kept his vow to the Lord.
All are invited to the kingdom of God, even repeatedly, the good and the bad alike. Salvation is open to all. But they should be willing, they must respond to the call. And once they respond, they should be consistent. They must share in the death struggle of Christ against evil, to live with the life of Christ. The force to live the Christ life is indeed given to us in the Eucharistic meal. There the Lord prepares us for the royal marriage feast. 

Reading 1: Judges 11:29-39a
The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and through Mizpah-Gilead as well, and from there he went on to the Ammonites. Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. “If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,” he said, “whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the LORD. I shall offer him up as a burnt offering.” Jephthah then went on to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD delivered them into his power, so that he inflicted a severe defeat on them, from Aroer to the approach of Minnith (twenty cities in all) and as far as Abel-keramim. Thus were the Ammonites brought into subjection by the children of Israel. When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah, it was his daughter who came forth, playing the tambourines and dancing. She was an only child: he had neither son nor daughter besides her. When he saw her, he rent his garments and said, “Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me. For I have made a vow to the LORD and I cannot retract.” She replied, “Father, you have made a vow to the LORD. Do with me as you have vowed, because the LORD has wrought vengeance for you on your enemies the Ammonites.” Then she said to her father, “Let me have this favour. Spare me for two months, that I may go off down the mountains to mourn my virginity with my companions.” “Go,” he replied, and sent her away for two months. So she departed with her companions and mourned her virginity on the mountains. At the end of the two months she returned to her father, who did to her as he had vowed. 

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 40:5, 7-8a, 8b-9, 10
R. (8a and 9a) Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Blessed the man who makes the LORD his trust;
who turns not to idolatry
or to those who stray after falsehood. R.

Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.” R.

“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me.
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!” R.

I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know. R.

Alleluia: Ps 95:8
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia. 

Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.” 

In Matthew’s Gospel, the Jewish people have priority in the ministry of Jesus. They are represented by the first category of people who make excuses for not attending the wedding feast. After their failure to respond positively, the broader Gentile world is invited and soon fill the hall. All are welcome, but the king, upon entering, finds a man not properly attired and orders him expelled. The universalism of Jesus’ mission is underscored, but, at the same time, there are certain spiritual dispositions that every Christian must possess. When these are missing, exclusion is the result.
In the reading from Judges, Jephtah had made a vow and was held to it. His daughter was the first to meet him upon his return from battle and thus was the one to be sacrificed. The story strikes us as brutal, and in fact, in later Hebrew culture, human sacrifice was forbidden. But here there is a vow involved that could not be dismissed.
Commitment is pertinent to both readings. Those who enter the Christian community do so realizing what that entails. In the minds of many today, that commitment is not taken seriously. While avoiding the extremes of Jephtah, we could use a measure of his seriousness. Christianity is not simply a peg on which we hang our coat. It is a matter of God, his Christ, and our eternity. Today’s readings call us to renew our resolve. 

All are invited to the Lord’s feast meal, but not all come. Are some absent because we do not make them feel welcome? Let us do all we can to make people feel at home with us. May God bless you all, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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