This is my homily for Thursday, week 20 of Ordinary Time. Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14
Imagine if you received an invitation like the one in the gospel. An invitation of enjoying time away from the daily grind, a chance to visit with many people of great importance, and simply the joy of the celebration. The Queen of England invites you to attend an evening with Olympic athletes, heads of state, and your favorite celebrity. All expenses paid. You’d probably want to drop everything and attend! To react any other way seems absurd.
Our Lord is not simply telling a story, but is making a profound point. How do people react to the invitation? Some could care less…they are more interested in the monotony of their daily lives. Some actually attack the servants of the king. The parables have many layers, and one is the layer of salvation history. God had chosen the Jewish people, but in the Old Testament we see time and time again the prophets are either ignored or attacked. God is removed from society, and the prophets warn, but the people react in the same way as in this parable. They either shrug their shoulders or strike down the prophets.
Eventually at the wedding feast are good and bad people. Some do not have the proper outfit on. Various commentators have different opinions about what this garment represents. Saint Gregory the Great proposes it is charity. Saint Augustine says it means one is seeking his own honor, not the honor of the bridegroom, Christ. Saint Hilary says it is the Holy Spirit and purity. Saint Jerome says it is the commandments of the Lord and our good works. None of these are contradictory, but in any case, the wedding garment seems to indicate how we respond with a heart of repentance. Do we turn to the Lord asking for His mercy and try to live the path he sets out for us? Or are we more interested in first pursuing our own plans?
Since we have free will, we are capable of being any of these characters. We can be indifferent to our vocation, we can attack violently because we do not want to think of ourselves as sinners in need of God’s help, or we can try to enter the kingdom of heaven on our own accord. Death, judgment, heaven, and hell. These are the four last things, and what this parable reminds us of very clearly. We will all die, we will be judged by God, and we will either end up in heaven or hell.
We see the reality of this parable even today. God comes to us in the Eucharist, and so many avoid coming to Mass, for whatever reason. It’s as if it doesn’t matter go them that God comes to us in this hidden way. Many people live together before they are married, as if the sacrament of matrimony is somehow a limitation on their freedom. Stating the truth is now decried as “hate speech” or being a “bigot”.
Our Lord offers us this great and beautiful life of being with him in eternity, so rich that it makes all the pleasures and riches of the world pale in comparison. It begins right now, and very powerfully we live our lives with Him through the Sacraments. As we encounter Him, we will experience the joy that only He can bring. Then we won’t be indifferent, we won’t deny our need for Him, and we won’t be without the wedding garment. The Holy Mass, frequent Confession, and prayer. These are how we can put on the proper garment. By our own witness to faith we can be the beacon to bring others to respond enthusiastically to the Gospel. Let us pray to our Blessed Mother, especially the Rosary, for the graces of conversion for ourselves and those around us so that we may be members of the Kingdom now and for all of eternity.