A New Heart and Spirit

21 August 2008 Memorial of St. Pius X
Ezekiel 36, 23-28; Psalm 51, 12-19; Matthew 22, 1-14

People ridiculed God. And so God said to the prophet Ezekiel in first reading: “I will prove the holiness of my great name.” What respect can be given to a god who cannot even protect His people on His own land! So God promised to bring the peoples from foreign lands, and gather them back to His own land. And so in verse 25 and 26: God promised to give us a new heart and a new spirit.

The heart is the seat of thinking and loving. And so God will give us a way of looking at our lives from the point of view of God. And the new spirit is the power to live as an entire nation, as one community, and not just as individuals.

The parable of the banquet in the Gospel stresses this point. The banquet is a community event, celebrating an important milestone such as a wedding. During the olden days in Palestine, wedding invitations are sent long beforehand, but the time of the feast is unannounced. It presupposes that during that particular day, the invited guest would make that day free as a gesture of giving the host importance. No appointments are made, all of their hearts are set on the feast. They put on their best clothes and primp themselves… and then they wait for the announcement of the time of the feast.

The parable however said that those who were invited had set their hearts on their individual concerns. And so the king invited everyone on the streets, the good and the bad to come to the banquet. The banquet has been changed from an exclusive to an inclusive event. Everyone is invited. The kingdom of heaven therefore is community.

The Pentecost has brought people from different nations, with a variety of language and culture, to understand each other as compared to the incident at the Tower of Babel. The coming of the Spirit has brought understanding between peoples.

The same way with the Eucharist: it is a banquet of various people from all sorts of backgrounds, but united in the same love of Christ. Think World Youth Day. It is the largest single gathering of people from different nations, celebrating as one. Indeed, World Youth Day is a fulfillment of the God’s promise to Ezekiel.

Thus, many of us Catholics should understand that we become more Catholic (meaning, universal) when we are welcoming and friendly of people who have different ways, ideas, race and even religion. We become agents of unity than division. We know that we have a new heart and spirit when we create community.

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