Sunday, October 15, 2017

The three responses we give to God's invitation (Sunday homily)

In the readings, we have a feast; a marriage; 
a surprise invitation; and a guest who was unprepared.

The question that always gets the most attention is this: 
why was the one guest unprepared? 
He wasn’t dressed properly; and people will say, 
but they took him off the street, how could he have been prepared?

That misses the point, which is that when God gives us an invitation, 
we will be able to give a response. 
And in this parable, there are three responses people give:

The first is what the original guests give. 
Their answer, not to say it too rudely was, 
“The King? Nuts to the king!” 
There are less polite ways to say it, that I won’t say, 
but you know what I mean.

Then we have the response of most of the guests who show up. 
The king finds them suitably attired. Their response was the right one. 
In a word, they said “yes, Lord,” not just to the invitation, 
but to everything that went with it. They changed their lives. 
They recognized Jesus as their King 
and rearranged their lives around that reality. 

And then we have this guest. 
He didn’t flatly refuse; but he also didn’t really say yes. 
He wants to be along for the ride. He wants to hedge his bets. 
He doesn’t really respect the invitation, or the King. 

There are plenty of people in our time 
who have the integrity to recognize that calling yourself a Christian carries great demands; 
and they are not ready to do it. 

So you will meet people and say to them, 
“weren’t you baptized a Catholic? Aren’t you a Christian?” 
And they will say, I was, but I am not any longer.” 
And it might be a disappointment or hurt; 
and many will admit they just drifted away; 
but again, there will be those who will say forthrightly, 
“I am not prepared to be a Catholic because…” and then explain why.

There is something to respect in people 
at least realizing that following Jesus Christ is not a trivial matter, 
but the most serious decision. 

Then we have the guest who gets thrown out. 
He takes it all very lightly. 

This is the person who says, sure, I’ll be a godparent for a baptism, 
even though he or she doesn’t make living the Faith a priority. 

How can someone agree to be a sponsor for baptism or confirmation – 
which means, you will model the Faith by your life – 
when you know you’re not doing that? 

And I know how painful it is not to be able to invite family or friends 
to be godparents, but it’s a very solemn responsibility. 
And if you can’t find suitable godparents, come and talk to me. 

This guest without the wedding garment 
is someone who fundamentally misunderstands what Jesus asks. 
Our Faith is not like sales tax. 
You go to the store, you pay the tax, 
and that satisfies the state. You go on as you like.
Some people imagine being Catholic is like that. 
I check off the boxes, I’ve done my duty, 
and then I do as I please.

But that is not Christianity. That is not our Catholic Faith. 
You know what that is? It is a warmed-over paganism. 

In the time of the Apostles, 
this is precisely how the pagans approached religion. 
Zeus or Aphrodite or Mithras or whatever gods you worshipped, 
were almost never the center of life. 
You made your periodic sacrifices, 
you showed up for a religious holiday, and then you lived as you like. 

But what does Jesus say? 
“I am the way, the truth and the life, 
no one comes to the Father except through me.” 
And, “If you are not with me, you are against me.” 
And, he said, “If you would be my disciple, take up your…Cross 
and follow me.” To follow Jesus is to be all in. He is the King.

What Jesus offers us is costly, but it is also a super-abundance of life. 
Nothing is more demanding, and yet it is to drink Life from the Source. 
What could be better?

Notice what was that guest invited to? To a wedding, to a feast. 
And remember, he wasn’t one of the rich swells who was used to this; he was poor and hungry.

The future that Jesus opens up for us? There is no upper scale. 
There is no upper limit to how much abundance 
of life and joy and peace and fulfillment will be ours 
on that mountain where death is destroyed forever!

You and I are bidden to that wedding; 
and all Jesus asks is, “give me your heart. Say yes to me, as your King.” 
The marriage is between the Son of God 
and the People he has called to himself. 
Our destiny is something breathtaking and shocking to say: 
we will be united with God! 

In three weeks our parish will have a mission, 
with Father Nathan Cromly. 
The title of the mission is, “Discovering Joyful Catholicism.” 

Our Faith is demanding, and yet it is a Feast.
There’s a funny old movie called “Auntie Mame,” and she says, 
“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” 

That banquet is our Catholic Faith: 
an abundance of truth about who God is and who we are. 
Tables groaning with mercy for all who want it, 
and we can go back, again and again. 

A flood of grace that gives us strength to be people 
we could never be otherwise. 
And a life – in this world and the world to come – 
that is worth everything we give, to have. 
Because that life is Jesus Christ himself.

So, first, if you need your batteries recharged – and who doesn’t? – 
then come to this mission. The dates are November 6-8, 
and Fr. Cromly will give a talk in church 
on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. 
There are other events planned for our children and teens to meet him. 

Each night will include time for prayer and priests to hear confessions.
And if you need a reason to go, the theme is your answer: do you want, do you need, 
to discover more joy in your Catholic Faith? 
Who doesn’t?

Second, this is what Jesus sends us out to bring others to share. 
If you wonder what it costs to follow Jesus, how about this: 
Right now, it “costs” each of us looking around for people to invite. 
There are flyers at the doors, feel free to take one. 
We’ll have more next week. 

Pray for the people who you might want to invite, starting today. 
Pray for you to have the courage to say the words, 
to family, friends and neighbors, 
“would you like to come with me to St. Remy’s Parish Mission?” 

And how about this? If someone pokes back at you, 
“well, you don’t seem all that joyful!” 
You tell them, “You’re right! That’s why I’m going! You come with me.”


rcg said...

Interestingly, this week I attended a discussion concerning the Reformation and the glacial reconcilliation of positions specifically between Lutherans and The Church. Of particular remark was that Justification was no longer an issue, at least according to the Lutheran pastor giving the talk. Regardless, I found it interesting because Justification is often discussed and discribed allegorically as putting on a garment (Grace).

Fr Martin Fox said...


As you can imagine, there is a lot of discussion about the meaning and symbolism of the wedding garment in this passage. One of them is, indeed, that it's justification; and that's not a terrible idea.

That said, recall that one of the key issues between the Catholic Faith and most Protestantisms arising from Luther's movement was whether justification is infused, or imputed or "forensic"; that is to say, Luther and others argued that when God justifies us, he does not actually make us righteous, he simply declares us righteous; we are and remain a pile of dung covered over with snow (sorry, but that really was Luther's image). But the Catholic understanding is that God does not call unrighteousness righteous, and his word is effective; therefore, God makes us actually righteous, not merely cloaked in righteousness.

In other words, the idea of a garment takes on different meaning depending on how you understand justification.