The Wedding Garment of Love

10.15.17  Sun. wk 28 – O.T. – A
1st Reading  Isaiah  25:  6 – 10a
Philippians  4: 12 – 14, 19 – 20
Gospel – Matt 22:  1 – 14

Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture readings.

Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                         The Wedding Garment of Love

From the prophecy of Isaiah we are told three times that God will provide for us.  “On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will provide for all people…On this mountain He will destroy the veil that veils all people…The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.” (Is. 26:6-10a)

In biblical theology, the “mountain” is synonymous with the place where God reveals Himself; where we are in contact with God and how God speaks to us in our heart through prayer.  It is not only a mystical encounter with God through prayer, but a tangible encounter as well.  When we truly recognize God in one another, and express love for one another, it is a moment of encounter with God.  Now in the Gospel parable of the King who gives a wedding banquet, †Jesus teaches us of the Father’s desire to invite us to His Mountain Banquet with: “A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” (ibid)  Everything has been prepared for us as God’s people.  All are invited to an encounter with God.

But then in the parable, something goes terribly wrong.  Those invited to the banquet find excuses not to participate.  They act violently towards the servants that were sent out to bring them in.  †Jesus then says: “The King was enraged and sent His troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city.” (Matt.22:7)  Why this over-the-top reaction of the King just because people said they were not coming to his party?  It is meant to emphasize the absolute absurdity of the people’s response, or non-response, to the King’s invitation.  Those people must’ve been crazy not to accept the invitation to such a feast.

The Word of God, as we know, is meant for every generation.  This parable is meant for us.  Do we see ourselves, at times, in those who refuse the invitation?  Are we really insane when we say: “No” to †Jesus and all the gifts He wants to give us?  Through the Word of God, and the teachings of the Church, we have an invitation for a true and glorious encounter with God.  It is through prayer, acts of love, compassion and mercy that we encounter God.  In this Eucharist that we celebrate today, we are invited to share the Heavenly Banquet of the Lord to give us a glimpse into eternal life.  We are invited to share in the company of the angels and saints, who, at this moment, are in the presence of God!  And we share in this moment as the Body of Christ.  Yet, how many of us experience boredom at mass? How many of us are checking our email or texting during mass?  (Oh, and by the way, I do see you from up here when you do that.)  And how many of us run to the mountain daily to encounter the Lord in prayer?  We may run to appointments or activities that we really enjoy, that we are fired up about, but sitting before the Lord, not so much; it’s not quite as important to us.  Or, maybe the silence of prayer makes us uncomfortable, and we don’t take the time to pray, unless, of course, we need something desperately.  Then we’re ‘all in’ with our prayer.

†Jesus gave His life on the cross so that He could be with us.  He wants us to be with Him.  †Jesus is never bored with our prayer.  Regardless of how many times we ask Him for something, He is never bored.  Even when our words are awkward and we don’t know if it is the right kind of prayer, it’s okay with †Jesus.  He just loves us and wants to be with us.  Everyone is invited to His feast.  Everyone is invited to His feast!  The Church is not a club for special perfect people where our prayers are perfectly formulated.  We do not gather to rejoice tonight in our perfection.   That’s not why we are here.

Pope Francis calls the Church: “A Field Hospital.”  It is a place of healing for those of us who are broken. The Church is more a “MASH” unit than the Mayo Clinic.  It is a place for hope, as well.  We are “A Field Hospital!”  Pope Benedict wrote this: “The goal of Christian Hope is the Kingdom of God; that is the union of…man (and woman) with God, through an act of divine power and love…And the aim of Christian Hope is a gift – the gift of love.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: The Yes of Jesus in Faith, Hope and Love; Crossroad Publishing, NY, 1991)  To live the gift of love is essential for a place at the heavenly banquet.  It is absolutely essential.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote this: “The dinner is a spiritual refreshment, everything is ready.  Christ has suffered, has opened the heavens and sent His apostles.”  However as we hear in this parable tonight, not everyone comes properly attired.  One person is thrown out.  Clothing in the Scriptures can be a metaphor for ‘Good Works,’ for being a faithful disciple.  At the Last Supper †Jesus gave this instruction to His disciples: “This is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)  How does †Jesus love us?  He loves us as a total self-gift.  That’s how He loves us!  Again, from St. Thomas Aquinas: “To have a wedding garment is to put on Christ through good works, through a holy life, through true charity.”  But too often, we do the minimum when it comes to charity – to loving our neighbor.

Last week you might recall, I spoke about how I concelebrated a mass with Bishop McElroy and Bishop Dolan for the parents of those who have LGBT children.  And when I arrived at St. John’s Church, the police presence was huge at the Church because threats were being made against the church.  So for security, the police came out in force.  The threats of violence came from, so called, good, Christian people.  Discrimination and hatred toward others shows that we have not “put on Christ”.  Now, those people who made the threats, think they are being faithful to the teachings of †Jesus but they are misguided to the central message of †Jesus, which is – ‘love for one another.’

The Blessed Mother was the most devoted to God, because she was the most devoted to God; surrendering her will to ‘God’s Will.’  “I am the maidservant of the Lord, let it be done to me as you say.” (Luke 1:38)  Mary was blessed, not because she gave birth to †Jesus, that’s not why she was blessed.  Mary was blessed, because she heard the Word of God and lived it.  Before she conceived †Jesus in her womb the angel said: “Blessed are you among women.”  She was already blessed, She was blessed because she was obedient to God.   We claim membership in the Catholic Church based on baptism and doctrine and documents, but this alone does not make us disciples of +Jesus Christ.  It does not make us “blessed” in the Lord.  It is living our faith in all that we do that we are “blessed”.  It is in acts of love and mercy and compassion that make us blessed like Mary.

Pope St. John XXIII said: “We are not here to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life.” That’s why we are here, the garden (the Church) flourishes through love.  We grow and mature in holiness in direct proportion to how much we love.”  The man in the parable was invited to the wedding banquet, as we are all invited, but he did not have the proper attire.  He lacked love and self-gift which are necessary to have a seat at that table.   Coming properly dressed means being open to the grace and blessings of †Jesus, and sharing the graces of love and mercy and the compassion of Christ with all that we meet, regardless of race, creed or color, immigration status, sexual orientation, or whether they are a sinner or a saint; all that is irrelevant.

St. Paul in his Letter to the Colossians invites us to clothe ourselves with virtue; above all he writes: “With love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col.3:12-14)  We are all invited to the mountain of the Lord, to His eternal banquet.  What shall I wear to the banquet?

There is only one answer to that question.  †Jesus said: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.