Saturday, October 11, 2014

Wedding Garment - Sunday Homily

St. Augustine says that the wedding garment is the response to the commandment to love God and neighbor. It is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from a genuine faith.

He contrasts this love with a much lesser love. It’s amazing to see that people were distracted from God in Augustine’s time just as they are now. He died in the year 430. That’s over 1500 years ago. You’ll be amazed at just how similar people 1500 years ago were to us now. Augustine says the love of the wedding garment is not the love for play actors. Just like now many are obsessed with what actors in Hollywood are up to. That’s why People magazine exists. He says the love of the wedding garment is not love for their favorite charioteers and huntsmen. That’s just like now. Sometimes we overemphasize sports. Sports are good things. Our ability to play them is God’s gift. So sports can be played in a way that gives Him the glory but that’s not always the case. When I was in Honduras one summer, I could tell the priest kept preaching about soccer. I couldn’t understand all the Spanish but I kept hearing that word futbol. He said some of the men there will neglect their families and get all wrapped up in watching soccer.

Very often, we hear our Lord refer to Heaven as the eternal wedding feast. It’s actually His most favorite analogy. God wants to be married to us, in a sense. He wants to be closer to us than a husband is to his wife. At a wedding feast, we have a bride and groom. A marriage of bride and groom has taken place. In Heaven, a marriage is taking place: The marriage of Christ the groom with His bride the Church, That’s us!

God calls all of us to the wedding feast. In fact, God is calling and reaching out to us nonstop. That’s the topic of the Lord’s parable in today’s Gospel. We respond by keeping on our wedding garment. In the parable, the guest without the wedding garment is probably a Christian who loses his zeal and becomes complacent. This is the character who concerns us.

Upon arrival at a wedding feast, each person is issued a wedding garment. If a guest would have the nerve to take off the garment during the wedding feast, this would be a huge insult to the bride and groom. It would show that the guest is not interested in their marriage and is just along for the ride, maybe to get the free prime rib. Even though the guy insults the king by taking off the wedding garment, notice how the king continues to reach out to him. He even calls him “friend.” But in his stubbornness, he refuses to respond. The New American Bible says that the wedding garment is the repentance, change of heart and mind, that is the condition for entrance into the kingdom. And it must be continued by a life of good deeds.

We know that God is the giver of all good gifts. This includes the things we enjoy. One of these gifts is our freedom. This freedom or free will that God gives us is awesome. But in that freedom, we are also free to reject God. And it’s sad that so many of us reject Him.

Just by noticing the beauty of creation, we should enjoy the certain hope that the next life is going to be even more awesome than this one. But in our freedom some of us choose the things of this world and reject the hope of the next. We become satisfied with the status quo.

Even though we have the tendency to reject God because of our fallen nature, He will always continue to provide for us the most bountiful feast of his Son. We just have to choose it. We just have to keep on our wedding garment. We have to show God that we are still interested in a relationship with Him.

Sometimes we become complacent like the guy without the wedding garment. We may be tempted to think that as long as we show up at Sunday Mass we’re OK. But the Lord calls us to go deeper in our relationship with Him. He calls us to trust Him completely.

At a recent archdiocesan conference, I heard a talk by Author Sherry Weddell. She recently wrote a book called Forming Intentional Disciples. A disciple is a learner, a pupil, a follower of a certain teacher. The one we follow of course is Jesus. An intentional disciple makes a conscious commitment to follow Jesus in the midst of His Church as an obedient disciple and to reorder one’s life accordingly. That’s what it means to keep on the wedding garment. Sherry walked us through the levels of commitment to reach this ideal. The vast majority of people get scared and disengaged on the way. We get scared, distracted by the world and take off the wedding garment.

The wedding garment keeps us genuine. It keeps us from putting our faith in the Sunday Mass compartment. The love of God permeates every aspect of our lives. As Christians we put our faith into everything we do, not just Sunday Mass. We put our faith into our jobs, our families, how we deal with others in society.

The wedding garment shows that we are 100% aligned with God. When we respond, He gives us the grace we need to keep the wedding garment on. It’s good to enjoy the abundance of God’s creation. Like the fine foods and choice wines that Isaiah mentions in the first reading. We should be a happy and joyful people. We have been redeemed and we should act like it. And St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians that we just heard: Abundance or hunger does not matter. We are still called to remain faithful. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. We should rejoice in knowing that we can do all things in God who has strengthened us.

I don’t know what the wedding garment looks like, but people will notice when we have it on because of our joyful witness. And God brings us to the feast to enjoy rich foods and choice wines for all eternity.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reflection on Matthew 22:1-14

I didn't like the bulletin insert from a certain publishing company's website, so I took a crack at writing a quick one myself:

From the way things unfolded in history, we can see what the Lord was teaching in the parable of the wedding feast. First, St. Matthew tells us Jesus is speaking to the chief priests and the elders. He is inviting them to conversion. Of course, the king in the parable represents God. He dispatches servants to summon the invited guests. From history, we know the servants represent the Prophets and the invited guests were God's chosen people, the Jews. The Lord's parable would have cut to the heart of the chief priests because they know that their own ancestors killed the Prophets. And Jesus is showing them that the Jews are largely not responding. In the parable, the king sends his servants to invite "whomever you find." This means that not only the Jews are invited, but the Gentiles are too. Jesus sent his disciples to the whole world--Jews and Gentiles--with the Good News of salvation. God invites, but we must respond. All guests are given a wedding garment when they come into the feast. The refusal to put it on illustrates a refusal to respond fully to the invitation of the host and is an insult to the host. In his infinite mercy, God continues to reach out to us like the king reached out to the man without the wedding garment with the words: "my friend" in the midst of insult. Still he refused to respond. How can we respond to God's love today?