Homily for Sunday, October 12, 2014 – The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Holy Church offers us two versions of today’s Gospel: the Gospel reading we just heard and a shorter form. Usually when the Church offers us a shorter form, it is fundamentally the same as the longer form. However, today I am not sure that is the case. I think there is something very important missing in the shorter form today, and that is a stern warning that comes to us from Our Lord.

We have been hearing in the Gospel readings for a number of Sundays now a common idea present in all of them: make straight your paths. Make sure your ways are God’s ways. Do what is in accord with holiness and righteousness, and reject everything contrary to it.

Today, Our Lord is comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. In Biblical times, a wedding feast would have been understood as a very big deal, and one given by a king would be over-the-top. But for this wedding feast, the invited guests refuse to come.

It is easy to see in that a warning against those who reject Christ and His Holy Church, and it is easy to see in it that the king — who represents God in this parable — rejects those who received the first call and calls others to come to his son’s wedding feast.

Both are easy to see, and as far as they go they are a fair way to understand today’s readings. In the shorter form of today’s Gospel, the reading ends there: “The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.” That feels pretty good as long as we understand ourselves as one of the newly-called guests. After all, the hall is full and we all expect to find ourselves there.

God gives us the great gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is a sort of dry-cleaning service for our Spiritual white garments. When they become stained with sins, we find ourselves in danger of becoming the man in today’s parable.

But the parable doesn’t end there. Yes, it tells us the hall was filled with guests. But the very next word is but.

But is such a little word, though its meaning isn’t little. When I was going to the Institute for Pastoral Theology of Ave Maria University, one of my professors — a very accomplished scripture scholar — told us one day that whenever we encounter the word “but” in Holy Scripture, our ears should perk up and we should really pay attention to what comes next, because it is not going to be something small or unimportant.

Yes; the hall is filled with guests, but one man there is not dressed in a wedding garment. Because of this transgression, the man is bound hands and feet and cast out into the darkness, were there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Ouch. The message here isn’t just that a new people are called to be the guests at the wedding banquet and everything ends on a happy note with all of the guests linking hands and singing Kumbaya. No; one of the new guests is found unworthy and is cast out, and in that there is a warning for all of us.

To fully understand this warning, we must ask ourselves several questions. Who is this man? What is this wedding garment? Why doesn’t he have one? And, perhaps most importantly: how can we make sure this doesn’t happen to us?

The first question — who is this man? — is of least importance in understanding the parable, but is of great importance on a personal level because it should be of utmost importance to every individual to make certain that he or she is not this man… to make certain that he or she is not the one cast out of the Kingdom of God. We know that this man was in the second group called; we know that he arrived at the feast unprepared. He had no wedding garment.

So, then, what is the wedding garment? For an answer to this question, I ask you to think back to the day you were baptized. After you were baptized with water and in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, you were anointed with sacred chrism, the Oil of Salvation. You were then clothed with a white garment and the celebrant said, “you have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”

All present responded, Amen. This wedding garment is one and the same as the garment you received at baptism that you are to bring unstained with you to everlasting life. I don’t mean the physical garment, but the spiritual reality that it represents: your Christian dignity, unstained by sin.

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Why does the man lack a wedding garment? Clearly, the king expects that he should have one… and so he should. The fact that he was in the second group of guests called to the banquet tells us that the man was baptized; he should have a white garment that is his Christian dignity. But at some point, he lost it. Through the stain of sin and through a lack of repentance, he has lost that Christian dignity that he was to bring with him into the everlasting life of heaven and, therefore, he is cast out into the darkness. Many are invited, but few are chosen.

Once we understand that the man could be any one of us — after all, the man in the parable is a sinner and we are all sinners — and we understand that he was given the garment the king expects but has lost it, the last question — how do we make sure this doesn’t happen to us? — becomes very easy to answer. Perhaps it is not as easy to do, but it is a very easy question to answer.

Christ teaches repeatedly that we are to renounce sin and follow the ways of God, and that is exactly what we must do. Will we have failures along the way? Yes; certainly we will. But when we fall and stain that spiritual garment that is our Christian dignity, we must then again rise, dust ourselves off, and continue that journey in the ways of God.

Christ teaches repeatedly that we are to renounce sin and follow the ways of God, and that is exactly what we must do. Will we have failures along the way? Yes; certainly we will. But when we fall and stain that spiritual garment that is our Christian dignity, we must then again rise, dust ourselves off, and continue that journey in the ways of God.

God gives us the great gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is a sort of dry-cleaning service for our Spiritual white garments. When they become stained with sins, we find ourselves in danger of becoming the man in today’s parable.

But God doesn’t want us to be that man, and so He allows us to come to Him, to confess our sins and to receive forgiveness; God will take away the stains of sin; He will even patch holes in that spiritual white garment and restore to us our Christian dignity so that we may better know Him, love Him, serve Him, and so that we can be together with Him forever at that wedding banquet in heaven, where we will be robed in the white garment that is the dignity we receive as creatures remade in Christ and where the hall will be filled with many guests.

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