We are coming to the end of the liturgical season. On the First Sunday of Advent, we start a new year of the church, and as we come to the new liturgical season, the readings get a bit more difficult week after week after week. I promise I’m not changing my preaching, but the readings are getting more difficult.
We hear in this parable that Jesus is introducing this image of the wedding that everyone is invited to. I want to talk about what it means to invite people to the Eucharist and what it means to one day enter into eternal life.
Jesus is talking about this two-fold purpose in this parable. One is to come to Him in the Eucharist, and one is to come to eternal life. The parable begins with him dispatching these servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refuse to come.
I have never had a wedding, but I’m sure a lot of you have had weddings yourselves or maybe had children that got married as well. But I hear that making the invitation list is a nightmare because you have to figure out how many people you can have there and who are the people where you need to start the chopping block. Now it’s the “B” list of the people that will come after the “A” list has not responded.
But can you imagine preparing this celebration for one of your children, planning this wedding, sending out the invitations, and no one responding? They all say, “No, I don’t like coming.” Wouldn’t that be horrible and devastating for you?
That is what Jesus is describing today. He is describing this mystical wedding feast that all are invited to and when He sends out the invitations, people respond, “No.” They are going to work. They are going to work; they’re going to work on the farm and be laboring instead.
That is what Sunday Mass is like. Every Sunday, we are called to the Eucharist to come together and worship God. Celebrate this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. I’m preaching to the choir because you are all here, but how many people are not here? Today how many people don’t come to Mass on a Sunday, and yet we have this wonderful celebration where Jesus offers us His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, and people are either working, going to sports, or sleeping in, or “Eh, I don’t want to go.” He wants all of us to come here together.
Just as He sent out servants to invite people to the feast, every week He sends you out to invite people to the feast. I would like you to think about that. Every week who could you invite? You have to place someone on your heart that He wants you to invite into this feast.
He says that some ignored this invitation and went away. One to the farm, others to his business, and the rest laid hold of his servants mistreated and killed them. Luckily, that won’t happen to you or me if we go and invite people to the Eucharist. I know it’s terrifying sometimes, and you don’t want to rock the boat or cause any tension, but it is our responsibility as His servants to invite people to this feast.
Then we hear that the king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Who is the king referring to? God the Father and Jesus is the one that was rejected and murdered. This happened during the time of the temple falling and being burned, so we hear of this burning of the city.
Then he said to his servants, “The feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” He is saying to go out into the main roads and invite anyone to the feast you find.
We can think about this for ourselves too. We can invite people, anyone, even if we think maybe, it’s not their thing. Maybe they’re not Catholic. He wants us to invite anyone and everyone to this feast.
That is the good news in scripture. We are all welcome and supposed to come here, but the difficult part is when the king came in to meet the guests, he sees a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. I don’t know about you, but this is a little disturbing because this guy is invited. He comes off the street, probably at the last minute, and he shows up to this wedding and he is not in his garment. How is he going to get a garment that soon? The master comes to him and says, “My friend, how is it that you came in without a wedding garment?” Then this is the worst part. He told his attendants, “Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” It gets even worse. “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
How do we make sense of this very difficult Gospel passage that Jesus is introducing as a Parable? I would like to understand it through the sacraments, especially Baptism, Reconciliation, and the Eucharist.
In Baptism, we were given a white garment that the servant did not have; we were given that white garment in Baptism. When your parents gave you that white garment, the priest or deacon said, “See in this white garment your Christian dignity and bring it unstained one day into everlasting life. You have become a new creation and clothed yourself in Christ. In this white garment is the symbol of your Christian dignity, and with family and friends, by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into everlasting life.”
We all have the white garment, but that second part says, “Bring that white garment unstained into everlasting life.” So, when we get to the celebration, to the feast of God, will that garment be white? If it is not white, we will experience that casting out either in Purgatory or, hopefully, not hell, but we will experience that being cast out.
What happens if our garment becomes stained? That is the image of sin, which is the image of our garment becoming destroyed. When we have grave or mortal sin, we are not supposed to receive Communion, and so the idea is that just as the man came to the celebration but didn’t have a garment, he was cast out.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church talks about responding to this invitation to this banquet. Saint Paul urges us to examine our conscience, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself and so eat the bread and drink the cup for anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.”
So, the Catechism says that “Anyone with grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before Communion.”
We have this wonderful opportunity. If our garment becomes stained because of sin, especially grave or mortal sin, we have the opportunity to go to Confession, and our garment becomes white again, and we can enter into the feast.
I think what Jesus is really getting at with this man without the garment is there was a sense of pride in coming to this wedding feast but not really entering in pure, coming to celebrate but not wearing his white garment. He was reduced to silence because he didn’t really have an excuse. He was just there but didn’t want to be there.
So, for all of us, we are given that white garment, and hopefully, we can not only come to Mass and receive the Eucharist worthily, go to Confession if we need to but, one day, bring that garment unstained into everlasting life.