White Garment Wedding

Don’t Get Caught Without Your White Garment

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This is one of those Gospels that is very difficult to understand at first. At first it seems as if this is for a dress code violation. What’s the big deal?

When I entered the seminary, it was the first time I ever had a real dress code. We had to wear a collared shirt and long pants—like dress pants—to everything. I got into trouble all the time for breaking the dress code.

I read this and I’m like, why is he so mad that he isn’t dressed right? You know you called him off the streets.  The good, the bad, the poor– everybody you brought in. It is a difficult Gospel to understand.

It actually gives priests the option to do a shorter version. Then you don’t have to talk about casting him off into the darkness and the grinding of teeth. You don’t have to talk about that.

As I was praying about it, I realized that there was something really significant about it. Something really important about it. Something that I think answers a big question for many Catholics. It has to do with Communion.

A lot of people say, “Why can’t I receive Communion, if I’m not Catholic?”  Or, “Why can’t I receive Communion, if I’m not practicing?”

As I go through this Gospel, I think it might help us understand why the Church teaches us what it does. In fact, God wants to invite everybody, but sometimes we’re a little resistant to take Him up on the invitation.

To begin with, it is important you know a little bit of the background on this Gospel reading.

First of all, a wedding invitation. Back in the day, they kind of did RSVPs ahead of time. They would send invitations to everybody to get an idea if they were coming or not. Then as the wedding got closer, they didn’t tell them the date before, but as the wedding got closer they would let them know. “Now it is time.”

The people that were being invited to the wedding had already kind of RSVP’d and said they were going.

When it was time for the wedding and time to gather together, the King was all excited. He sent out all the invitations and what did they do?

“Oh, I’m not going to go.”  “I want to go to work.”  “I want to go farm.”  “I want to get some work done today,” or whatever.

They end up not going to the wedding.  Then it is interesting, because the King is now desperate.  He has this huge celebration planned, and the people who were supposed to come aren’t coming. Then he said, “Go out there and invite anybody.  Anybody can come.  Good, bad, rich, and poor alike—bring anybody in.”

The interesting thing is, not only do they get an invitation, but when anyone accepts the invitation they also receive a white garment to wear. They are given the garment to wear to the wedding.

The reality is we are given everything that we need to celebrate these sacred mysteries, but sometimes we don’t wear our white garment. Sometimes we try to sneak in without our white garment. Let me explain a little bit more what I mean by that.

When the King comes into the feast (and this is the disturbing part of the scene), you would think he would be happy that everyone was there. But he goes over to the one man who is not wearing a wedding garment. He walks over to him and he says, “My friend how is it that you came without a wedding garment?”

Knowing in the back of his mind that, “I gave it to you. Everybody got a wedding garment to come in and to wear. Why aren’t you wearing it?”

The interesting part is, the man was reduced to silence. He just put his head down. He had no excuse. Because he had every opportunity to wear it, but for some reason he decided he was not going to wear it. That is the background to the story.

I want to talk about the Mass and the Eucharist, and how this is supposed to be symbolic of the wedding banquet. Heaven is supposed to be like a wedding banquet. That is one of the symbols of heaven.

The question is, “We have all been given our wedding garment, and we have all come to the banquet, but have we all chosen to put it on?  Are we wearing it? What does that mean first of all?”

When people say to me, “Why can’t I go to Communion?” Or they say, “Why am I not allowed to go to Communion?”  I say to them, “Oh you are welcome to.

Everyone is welcome to come to Communion. But we have a process for it. And it’s an initiation process. You actually get initiated into our Faith. Then you can receive Communion.”

Then they look at me and say, “Well, I don’t want to do that. I just want to receive Communion.”

Then I say, “Well, no, it is actually a sacred rite.  There is a rite that we have of initiation.

It is called RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation., where people are taught about our Faith.

They are initiated in our Faith. In the end, if they want to join our Faith, they can. When they are Baptized not only are they Baptized with water, they also receive a white garment.”

Sometimes little girls will come with little white dresses and little boys will be in little white suits, but they are always given that white garment to place over them.

When the garment is given to them, the phrase is said, “Here is your white garment. See in this garment your Christian dignity and carry it forever unstained into the Kingdom of everlasting life in heaven.”

First of all, anyone can get a white garment. If anyone wants to be Baptized and join our Faith, they are welcome.

However, there is a process for it, and at the end, you receive the white garment. Once you receive the white garment, you are invited to the wedding feast! You are welcome every Sunday to come to Mass.

Now here is the other difficulty. Can we forget our white garment? Or can we not wear our white garment? Or can we trade our white garment in for something else? Unfortunately, yes. That is ultimately what the Church talks about. The white garment really is a state of grace.

In Baptism, you are given a state of grace.  Well how can we lose our state of grace? Ultimately, through sin. And really through mortal sin.

If we have committed a mortal sin, that white garment has become tarnished, or dirty, or torn, and we have traded it in. Sometimes people think, “Well, I don’t have any mortal sins. I haven’t killed anybody. I haven’t done anything like that.” I don’t think a lot of Catholics realize that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith.

If we have any great sin, we should refrain from receiving it. If we have killed anyone, yes. Or if we have committed abortion, yes. Or if we have done some sexual thing, yes, we should refrain from receiving it. Also missing Mass is a great sin that I think a lot of Catholics just aren’t aware of.

If we have missed Mass without serious reason, either being sick, the catechism says sick or caring for a young child, a nursing mother, it is a grave and mortal sin.   I think so many of us Catholics come to Mass without wearing the wedding garments.

The thing is, with God, you can’t be a wedding crasher. He knows our hearts. He knows that we are not wearing the white garment. He knows the state of our souls.  Here is the dilemma. What if we are sitting in the pew right now thinking, “Oh, man I don’t know.

Maybe I shouldn’t receive Communion today, or I am condemned to hell. Or I am going to get tied up and thrown out.” The wonderful thing is that you are given the opportunity to have your white garment back. How do you get your white garment back?  Confession.

Confession. All you have to do is go to the Sacrament of Confession. You receive the grace of God. You are completely restored. You are given the white garment.

You can receive Communion again. So many people say, “Well that’s hard.” It is a wonderful Sacrament.

The amazing thing is that the Church makes confession right before the Saturday vigil. Immediately before Mass on Saturday, Confessions are being held. If you are struggling with some sin, and you can’t even go hours without doing it, you can go to Confession right before Mass, receive your garment, and go to Communion.

God does want to accept all of us—the good and the bad alike—but we have to be wearing our wedding garment.

I just offer you to think about that. Are you wearing your white garment? Is your soul in a state of grace? Or have you traded it away for something?

I think especially on Sundays there is a tendency now to trade our white garments away for a Browns jersey. We can trade it away so easily now and end up missing Mass. That is my encouragement to you.

First of all, everyone is welcome to the Eucharist. But there is a process for it.

There is a receiving of a white garment that we call the Rite of Christian Initiation and Baptism. If you lose that white garment—if you sin and mess up—there is a process. It is called Confession.

You can receive the white garment and come back again. Think about that.

Are you wearing your white garment today?  Are you in a state of grace? Come to Confession. Instantly you will be renewed.

Do not get caught without your white garment.

About the Author Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.

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I'm Father Michael J. Denk, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. I am a contributor of content to The Prodigal Father Productions, Inc., a non-profit corporation functioning in accord with the traditions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The corporation and I are separate, it doesn't speak for me, the parish, or on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland, and I do not speak for it.