So, for some reason, today’s Readings made me think of food, as if it isn’t on my mind enough already. Perhaps it was the fact that Mass was starting at 5:30 p.m. and I hadn’t eaten since noon (and yes, for me, that is a long time to not have eaten). However, it might have also been some of the language in today’s readings. For example, in the First Reading, from the 25th Chapter of Isaiah, the beginning of the reading, verse 6, starts out with, “On this mountain, the LORD of hosts, will provide for all peoples, a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” Isaiah goes on to proclaim a magnificent exaltation of the great power and love that God has for His people. God loves us all and will bring us together to protect us from the snare of death, providing us with all that we need; wonderful, awe-inspiring words from Isaiah.
Then food comes back into the picture with the Gospel, where Jesus provides us with a very interesting parable, rich with underlying messages and symbolism. Before diving into the Gospel reading for today, think of the last time that you had to dress up for a special dinner. Maybe it was a wedding, or an awards banquet, or simply a modern day feast. Some people really enjoy dressing their finest, while others see it more as just another hassle. Nevertheless, everyone shows up looking spiffy. However, there is the rare occasion that someone shows up appearing as though they just rolled out of bed. They might be wearing a stained t-shirt, with their hair all messy, and it looks as though they put no effort, whatsoever, into attempting to look nice for the occasion. Everyone still welcomes the guest, but some people might whisper remarks or look strangely at the guest, and the hosts might be disappointed. A similar situation happens in today’s Gospel reading.
Jesus starts out by clearing up any confusion about the foundation of the parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son.” The king sends out his servants to round up those that were invited to the feast, but they refuse to return with the servants. Again, the servants are sent out, but the guests ignore, or even kill (geez! brutal much?) the servants. Therefore, the king finally tells the servants to invite anyone that they find on the street. Many come to the feast, both good and bad. One man sticks out, though, and the king notices that he does not have wedding garments. He orders the man to be cast out into the darkness, and proclaims, “Many are invited, but few are chosen." I don’t know about you, but that statement sent a few chills down my spine.
I have to admit that, at first, I was confused by this Gospel. However, I am not a biblical scholar, so I was not that surprised by my confusion. The beginning and middle were fine, but the part that really got me was that the king cast out the man that didn’t have the proper clothes. I initially thought, “Does Jesus really care about what people wear?” Gosh, I better start dressing better on Sundays! Luckily, Fr. Al dispelled any of the worries that I had about clothing. I remembered during the homily that Jesus was speaking through a parable, where symbolism abounds. The clothing was not supposed to be taken literally; it was a symbol of what kind of spiritual state we are in. Are we wearing the brilliant garments of righteousness, kindness, compassion, (insert awesome, virtuous word here), or are we clothed in rags of sin and temptation? We are all invited to the feast in the kingdom of heaven, but we must not only accept the invitation, we must also lead a life that is worthy of acceptance. God opens His arms to invite us, for He loves each and every one of us, but we must make the effort to follow in the footsteps of Christ, leading a life of love and faith.
I know that, sometimes, I feel as though I am ignoring the invitation God presents to me. I get caught up with school, work, life, and I need to remind myself that all of this is important, but the ultimate priority is living a life that is worthy of acceptance into God’s kingdom. This might sound a little bit harsh, but, looking at it in another light, it is a challenge. Remember the teacher in high school or even grade school who would give almost every single student a bad grade, and yet everyone would come out of the class being able to recite the Preamble to the Constitution or the Scientific Method backwards and forwards, understanding each and every word? This is similar to the situation God puts us in: He has given us so much, and yet with all of these gifts, He also expects much from us. To quote Uncle Ben, from the famed Spider Man comics: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Bam!! Food, Catholicism, Spiderman, sounds like a fantastic Sunday to me. Getting back to the meaning of this Gospel, there are many simple things that we can do to improve our lives. A great area that has been a focus of many posts is prayer. Perhaps try praying before you go to bed or when you are walking to a destination. Ask for the guidance to live a life that is righteous and beautiful. This is just one example though, try finding something unique to your situation of the ‘clothes’ that you are wearing.
This is only the tip of the iceberg for this parable, and there is a lot more that could be interpreted, but I am going to end here. Remember that God loves each and every one of us unconditionally, and, through that love, He also expects much from us. Have a great week!