28th Sunday, Ordinary Time “A”
All Hallows – 2017
A priest-friend of mine recently shared his distress over the attire chosen by a retirement-aged parishioner to wear to Mass. The first Sunday, the gentleman came to Communion wearing a sweatshirt that said, “I can only be nice to one person a day, and today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look too promising either.” — And my friend wondered why the man’s wife let him out of the house dressed like that!
The next Sunday, this same gentleman walked up to receive Holy Communion in a T-shirt that read, “What don’t you understand about the word ‘NO’?” — Now, my friend admitted that he knew nothing about this man, personally, but it bothered him that this gentleman would come forward to partake in our Church’s greatest SACRAMENT of UNITY wearing slogans indicating that he wanted NOTHING TO DO with other people! — My guess is that this gentleman never connected his apparel with what was happening in church! — But still, wearing a shirt, with inappropriate slogans, to church, and especially to Holy Communion, is like wearing brown shoes with a tuxedo! — It just isn’t done!
Which segues nicely into this (evening’s/morning’s) parable. Jesus tells us that a king prepared a wedding banquet for his son, and then sent his servants to bring the invited guests to the banquet – BUT THEY REFUSED TO COME; choosing, instead, to go off and take care of their own concerns! — And the really remarkable thing is that the invited guests not only REFUSED to come; they mistreated and killed the king’s servants who had come to invite them! So, the king had these ungrateful guests executed, and then invited WHOEVER happened to be in the neighborhood, to come and fill the banquet hall.
Up until this point, the story is pretty straight forward. The originally invited guests, (the “A” List, if you will), represent the Scribes and the Pharisees who have, not only rejected Jesus and his invitation to enter God’s Kingdom, but who now plan to murder Jesus, and silence him forever! — Jesus is saying that they will be left out of the kingdom, (unless they have a change of heart); while the (“B” and “C” List people) who have ACCEPTED Jesus’ invitation to the banquet, (GOOD people and BAD people alike), WILL BE LET IN! — THIS IS TRULY A HOPE-FILLED PARABLE which reminds us that in GOD’S KINGDOM there is ROOM for anyone who wants to BE A PART OF IT! — In other words, GOD LOVES both SAINTS and SINNERS, which is GOOD NEWS indeed!
But then, Jesus gives us a little addendum to the parable. When the king came in to greet his guests, he noticed that one of them was not wearing proper attire! And he ordered that this unfortunate fellow be bound hand and foot and thrown out the front door! — (Now, this hardly seems fair, since Jesus tells us that the invitation to the feast was last minute!) — However, in Jesus’ day, special wedding clothes were PROVIDED for the guests, by the host – FREE, to all who came to the banquet. — So, even if the “B and C Listers” were dirty and ragged when they arrived at the door; they could still enter the banquet hall appropriately dressed for the wedding feast! — The guest without a proper wedding garment was simply rejecting his host’s generosity! — And his UNGRATEFUL BEHAVIOR was an INSULT both to his host and to the other guests!
St. Augustine, commenting on this parable in the early 5th century, said that the WEDDING GARMENT represents CHARITABLE LOVE FOR OUR NEIGHBOR! — Not just love for our spouse and children or immediate family members, because, as St. Augustine notes, “even sparrows love their own family.” — No, Augustine reminded his readers (and reminds you and me, today) that our JOB, (by virtue of our BAPTISM) – is to HELP MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE. (Which is simply another way of saying that: CHARITABLE LOVE FOR OUR NEIGHBOR DEMANDS that you and I HELP BUILD THE KINGDOM OF GOD by practicing CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP! — By using our TIME, our TALENTS, and our TREASURE (or at least a significant portion of it – to CONTINUE the WORK which JESUS BEGAN.
Augustine also gives us a healthy dose of reality therapy by observing: that WE ALL have a thousand and one excuses NOT TO DO THIS: “I can’t.” “Sorry, but I’m over-extended and over-committed.” “It’s too much to ask of me right now.” “I’m BUSY: Taking care of my FAMILY. Taking care of my JOB. Taking care of my HOME…” — WE ALL have a thousand and one excuses to AVOID the hard work and personal inconvenience of helping to make this WORLD a BETTER PLACE. — But, CHARITABLE LOVE FOR OUR NEIGHBOR IS the GARMENT that JESUS expects each of us to PUT ON when we come to HIS BANQUET TABLE!
THE SAD FACT IS that there are MANY in our world who “call” themselves CHRISTIANS, but whose personal lives show NONE of the SIGNS of actually “being” CHRISTIAN!
ALL of US NEED TO THINK ABOUT THAT – and honestly APPLY it to our own lives. And so, I leave you with an old Japanese legend:
A man died and went to heaven. As he was being shown around, he was much impressed by all the sights: the beautiful gardens where lotus flowers bloomed, and mansions built of marble and gold and precious stones. It was all so beautiful; even more wonderful than he had imagined!
Eventually the man came to a very large room that looked like a merchant’s shop. Lining the walls were shelves on which were piled what looked very much like dried mushrooms! But, on closer examination, this newcomer to heaven saw that they were not mushrooms at all. They were HUMAN EARS! — His guide explained that these were the ears of people on earth who diligently attended their places of worship and listened to the teachings of faith, yet DID NOTHING about what they heard! So, after their death, they themselves went somewhere else, and ONLY THEIR EARS REACHED HEAVEN!
YOU and I have been called by our BAPTISM to practice GOOD CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP – to help MAKE THIS WORLD a BETTER PLACE by using our TIME, our TALENTS and our TREASURE – wisely and well and generously.
So, as Jesus says in the 20th chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel: “Those who have ears, let them hear!”