Oct 11, 2014

28th Sunday: You are Invited

Everything is ready - come to the feast

Is 25: 6-10a
Phil 4: 12-14, 19-20
Mt 22: 1-14

Weddings are happy events.  In our present American culture the wedding industry has become a billion dollar business.  For some it’s all about the presentation, the venue, the clothing, the flowers, the food, the photographer, the guest list, the music.  The exorbitant amounts of money, in excess of $20,000 is not unheard of.

Now we priests could easily write a book about the weirdness and the beauty of what we have all seen in Church weddings. One wedding I had a number of years ago was a beautiful, very Catholic nuptial Mass with about 300 guests.  All was plannedwell, the bride and groom and the parents were proud and all the guests felt welcome.

You would think that everything would be as perfect as possible.  Until, you met the Best Man.  Without telling anyone, including myself, he had secretly planned a surprise to happen during the ceremony. As I moved to the blessing of rings, he pointed, I looked up and here comes an Elvis impersonator, down the middle isle, shiny pants, thick hair and all, who presented the rings right into my hand! Without a word, he was gone and I stood there with my mouth open as the Church broke into laughter.  However, if looks could kill I hope the best man got a good look at the Bride and her parents. What happened after the wedding? Use your imagination on this one

Still, of all the details that go into creating a wedding celebration, the one which seems to cause the most stress is who to invite. Invitations are sent hoping that everyone is included and no one suffers hurt feelings. Where to hold the actual nuptials is also a serious consideration.  There is a very good reason why Catholic weddings are held only in the sacred space of the Church even if Elvis decides to visit.     

Where, who comes and what to eat and drink are basic to a memorable wedding celebration whether it is over the top in its planning or simple and meaningful. 

In our readings this Sunday the prophet Isaiah speaks of a “feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy rich foods and pure, choice wines . . .” It is God himself, the Lord of hosts, who has prepared this banquet for us.  God is the center of the banquet. He is the one who has prepared the meal and the one who extends his invitation to anyone who would accept it.  

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus once again shares a story with the chief priests and elders of the people. “The kingdom of heaven” is likened to a king who prepares a sumptuous wedding feast.  All sounds delightful, delicious and merry.

Like any wedding the guest list is very important and in this story it changes over time.  One would think that anyone would be honored to be invited to a royal wedding feast.  Some people would do anything for such an honor.  Yet, those first invited refused to come. Despite the royal invitation some refused other found themselves just too busy to come. How unusual that sounds

So, the king sent servants into the by ways and highways to invite everyone both the bad and the good. The wedding hall was filled, the party began, and the very generous king arrived.  One would think that wedding attire would not be an issue considering where the servants went to fill the hall with guests but the king spots a guest “without a wedding garment.” That person is treated harshly and eventually thrown out of the banquet! 

Yet, that garment is somewhat key to understanding that although the invitation offered by God (the King) is not only generous and merciful there is still a caveat about our willingness to embrace and to live by the Gospel. We are invited to conversion; to set ourselves in a new direction and to return to the mark the Gospel shows us. In a real sense the “wedding garment” is a symbol of the white baptismal garment we all received or were clothed in at the moment of our baptism.

The color white represents cleanliness, the washing away of the stain of original sin, and more than anything else the new direction of our lives and the call to holiness that we are all invited to share in.

Maybe an interesting question that we must all ask is why we are here.  The readings both from Isaiah and from Matthew about this feast carry a clear mood of great joy.  The king has prepared a feast for everyone and wants to share his joy with those who accept the invitation.

That feast is a sign of both our Christian faith and the joy of sharing in the Eucharist.  Are we joyful Christians?  Are we here just out of obligation or do we come because we truly want to keep our lives directed in the ways of the Gospel?  

So, the feast is ready, the invitations have gone out and the challenge is given to us to take seriously our faith and to strive to keep washing that wedding garment of our baptism. If so, enjoy the party! 
May your grace, O Lord, we pray,
at all times go before us and follow after
and make us always determined
to carry out good works.
(Collect for Sunday)