Food features in all three readings from Scripture this Sunday. The prophet Isaiah speaks about the Lord’s Heavenly Banquet of food so rich and plentiful I feel myself reaching for my packet of Rennies or my bottle of Gaviscon! Paul thanks the Christians of Philippi for the food parcels which they have sent to sustain him while he is in prison (Paul had shine for the Philippian Church who were very fond of him). In the Gospel the Lord likens the Kingdom of God to a King who invites guests to the wedding feast of his son.
So often in the Scriptures, God speaks to us as invited to a special meal. In psalm 123, we hear we hear the Good Shepherd: “has laid a banquet for me in the sight of my foes .. my cup is overflowing”. The symbol of a wedding feast denotes so many important concepts for us as Christians: the love of those committed to each other, as we are to God and our brothers and sisters in the faith. It speaks of love that binds us together with cords that cannot be broken. It centres on vows and promises that evoke duty and sacrifice from us for the good of the other before self (always a good approach in marriage). It speaks of unity and community which is our strength and what we seek to promote reaching out to invite others to believe and belong and join the celebration. It speaks of good will and happiness which we wish for each other and seek to promote in relationships as we enjoy God’s Presence and those around us.
The Wedding Feast is the symbol of the state that all can expect to enjoy if they believe and live in loving service in God’s Kingdom. Today we find people who are invited by the King refusing to come to the feast and the King sending out his servants to invite all who were poor and not initially issued with invitations. There are important lessons for us here lest we take too much for granted.
Those who refuse to come and make excuses feel no sense of privilege. It was an honour to be asked by the King but they put no value on the invitation. To be created by God when He could have made somebody else is a privilege. To be called by God to faith is a privilege. To be baptised and adopted into the Divine Community of the Trinity in baptism is a privilege. To be a beneficiary of the Paschal Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ is a privilege. To be a co-worker with the Lord in the Kingdom is a privilege. To be entrusted with the ministry of loving and serving God in our duty of service to others is a privilege. The gift of each day is a privilege. To have each other as brothers and sisters is a privilege. To offer the Mass with Jesus is the supreme privilege.
The invited guests have no sense of the privilege of the King’s invitation. They have other ‘priorities’. They could visit their farm later on or before the meal, they could attend to their business at a later date. So often our excuses for putting off God’s will do not hold water. We are not happy when we are let down accompanied by a lame excuse and no genuine reason. The devil is expert at prompting us to excuses and inaction for God. “Why not put it off until later; you are too busy, you’re not the only one, it doesn’t really matter” etc.
A lack of privilege is rooted here in a lack of appreciation. This is the most important day in the son’s life and they are indifferent. They will not share his joy. The King has killed his animals and has no refrigeration. It takes a lot of organisation to arrange the feast and the King is totally committed to its provision. It’s now or never. His food must be eaten or it will be wasted and his son’s wedding day celebrated under a cloud of disappointment. Personally, I know I don’t express my gratitude enough for the death of Jesus on the cross to save me or Holy Mass. I take a lot for granted. We live in busyness and distraction and we can all take the privilege of God’s love for granted. Mystics who spend hours in adoration and thanksgiving to God remind us to not allow a day to pass without praising God for His goodness to us. We run the danger of being so busy with earthly tasks we neglect our eternal tasks and gratitude to God is one of them.
The Mass is the central act of our Catholic faith. This is the foretaste of the Banquet of Heaven. We are consuming or being blessed in spiritual communion with the Real Presence of Jesus, the food of eternal life. We need the Mass and the graces it bestows. Each Mass is a response to an individual invitation by God to attend. There is an element of command: “Do this in memory of me”. The Mass is not optional but essential. At this most Sacred Meal we are given the grace to do God’s work and the guidance and encouragement to do it well. We refocus our lives and activities and reorder out priorities in accordance with God’s plan. If we do justice to the Mass our place at the Heavenly Banquet is secured.
The Gospel also refers a man who tries to enter and is refused as he is not wearing a wedding garment. This can have different interpretations. First, the wedding garment was usually white, it was not the expense but the colour that really mattered. Whatever the man’s state of finances, the garment was within his means to acquire; he just couldn’t be bothered. For a more opulent event, a King would send out wedding garments to help less wealthy people to have the required apparel. The man would have received this but just would not make the effort to go home and change. This man takes so much for granted! He feels he can just turn up in his work clothes and be well received. Secondly, in a spiritual sense, it can mean a lack of conversion of heart. The man’s old clothes represent the old self God asks us to throw off to be born anew in the clothes of grace and true conversion. Anyway, The King sees this lack of effort as an insult to himself, his son and his son’s bride. This is not about Sunday best (though the Doyle family always dressed better for Mass), it is, as St. Paul would put it, how we are clothed in Christ – clothed in faith. The Christian garment is the white cloth of holiness and purity given to us at our baptism. It is the armour of faith. It is the apparel of the Holy Spirit, God’s grace, Divine Mercy, compassion, joy, patience, dedication, prayer and concern for our neighbour and total trust in God. This is the garment of the Christian. We must not go anywhere, meet anyone, or seek to perform any task unless we are wearing this garment. Most importantly, we need to be wearing it when God calls us to Himself.
The Gospel makes clear God will make every effort to create the conditions for us to positively respond to His love for us. But, in the end of the day, we are free agents. We can choose wisely or foolishly. God will not bend our arm; He respects our freedom. Let each Mass keep alive in is a true sense of occasion. Let us be careful of excuses. A wise person once said: “Excuses are the nails that build the house of failure”. Excuses focus a Christian on why he/she cannot instead of why he/she can and must. To be unwise like the ungrateful guests or the man without his wedding garment may cost such a Christian dearly, it may also deny another person the opportunity of knowing Jesus and a place at the Banquet of God. I’m not sure which is worse.
On a lighter note: A little boy was regularly late for school. One day he came in and the teacher asked what his excuse was today? He said: “Miss, there are eight in our family but the alarm clock was set for seven”.
Fr. Gerard X