Monday, October 16, 2017

The wedding banquet is prepared and you're invited!

Homily: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
          Friends, in this reading that we have just heard, Jesus is once again using a parable to demonstrate an important point; and we remember that these parables are really allegories: symbolic stories using familiar images to reveal a hidden reality.  In this particular allegory, Jesus is attempting to teach the Jewish religious elite that they are about to lose the favor they had with God because of their failure to respond to his call.  Let’s take a closer look at this parable.
          The king who prepares the wedding feast is obviously God and his son is obviously Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity: God’s “only begotten Son”.  The wedding feast is obviously the banquet of the Eucharist (although the Jewish religious elite of the time would not have known that as we know it: they would have only thought of a great, continual feast that would be celebrated when the Messiah would come and conquer all of their enemies; still they would have understood the wedding feast/banquet imagery).  The invited guests are God’s chosen people, the descendants of the ancient Israelites: the Jews.  The king’s servants who go to call the invited guests are the prophets; and the “bad and the good” who were then invited in the place of God’s chosen people are the Gentiles: that is, the people of all the nations that weren’t part of the ancient Israelite ancestry.
          The parable, of course, is a warning to the Jewish religious elite that their pride in their religious authority, which led them to ignore, at best, and mistreat, at worst, God’s prophets, would soon be their downfall.  Not only would their enemies come and destroy them and burn their city (which really happened, by the way, in 70 AD when the Romans sacked Jerusalem), but their status as a chosen people would no longer be exclusive; rather, it would be extended to the Gentiles: peoples who would gratefully receive it.
          While it certainly would be easy for us to sit back after hearing this parable again and say “Haha, those guys sure messed up didn’t they?” I think that it would be foolish for us not to take it as a warning for ourselves, here and now.  Yes, we, who are sitting here, are the “Church of the Gentiles”, who are the beneficiaries of the complacency of the ancient Jews, but I wonder if we haven’t become complacent, ourselves.  One of the most disturbing statistics about Catholics in recent years has been that less than 25% of those who declare themselves Catholic attend Mass on a regular basis.  Notice that we’re not talking about all baptized Catholics, because many baptized Catholics no longer declare themselves to be Catholic.  Rather we’re talking about those who still consider themselves to be Catholic and that 75% of these persons are so complacent about what it means to be Catholic that they no longer consider it a necessary part of their Catholicism to attend Mass.  Not to mention the fact that many Catholics who do attend Mass with some regularity feel little remorse for having missed Mass on any given occasion (I sit in that confessional, so I know).  Couple this with the fact that I’ve already discussed—that the wedding feast described in Jesus’ parable is an image of the Eucharist that we, as Catholics—the Gentile Church—celebrate—and all of a sudden this parable looks like it might be aimed squarely at us.
          My friends, the Eucharist—the wedding feast that God, our king, has prepared for his Son, Jesus, and to which we have been invited—is the greatest and most generous gift God has (and will) ever offer to us.  It is both the source of our entire Christian life (that is, the “spring of living water” from which all Christianity flows) and it is its summit of that life (that is, the end to which all Christianity leads).  To deny this is to deny the Christian faith.  And, thus, to disregard the Eucharist as something “disposable” in the Christian faith is to offend God at the level that the king in Jesus’ parable was offended when his invited guests all greatly disrespected his son by finding excuses for not attending his wedding feast.  Please tell me, who among you would not exclude from your friendship a so-called “friend” who offended you in such a great way?
          My brothers and sisters, if we, in any way, hold this attitude (that is, that the Eucharist is a “disposable” part of our faith), then we must purge that idea from our minds and our hearts we must and ask God for the grace to receive this gift of the Eucharist as the most precious gift we have ever received in our lives.  And if we know someone—especially someone who still considers themselves to be Catholic—who has so discarded this gift that he / she doesn’t attend Mass, then we must find ways to express to that person what a great gift the Eucharist is, and, thus, invite them back to this source and summit of their Christian faith.  And why?  So that God does not decide to treat us like he treated those ancient Jews and turn from us in order to invite those who will truly be grateful for the gift he is offering.
          My friends, if we need any evidence that the Eucharist is the greatest gift that God has (and will) ever offer to us, we should look no further than to those who have converted to the faith.  While the desire for the Eucharist may not have been the thing that brought them to the Church, I have found that, once they understand it, it becomes the thing that keeps them in the Church.  They are signs to us that God continues to “send his servants out into the streets” to invite the “Gentiles” and reminders to us that God will not tolerate our complacency when it comes to his generosity.  Therefore, as we welcome our sister Patty to share in this Great Wedding Feast for the first time, let us renew in our own hearts our gratitude for being among the invited so that we might give worthy thanks to God, our Father: both here in this Mass and by our lives of faithful discipleship in the world.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – October 15th, 2017

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