23 August 2012

"Invite whomever you find. . ."

20th Week OT (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

All of Jesus' parables lead us deeper into the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven. He uses parables precisely b/c the truth of the Kingdom has yet to be fully revealed much less understood, so the only fruitful way to talk about the features of the coming reign of God is parabolically, i.e. indirectly, using short allegorical stories to give us a peek at the bigger truth. The power of a parable lies in the use of the ordinary elements of daily life, the familiar people, places, and things that regular folks see and hear everyday. We're called upon to understand a parable by comparing the elements of the story to our own lives and draw out the truth. So, who are we in the parable of the wedding feast? We aren't the king, his son, or the soldiers. We could be the guests, though we've been at the party for a while now. We can't be the poor guy who gets bounced b/c he's improperly dressed. We're still at the party. That leaves the servants. We're the servants. The ones sent out by the king to summon his guests. The ones sent out to rouse the rabble and bring them as guests to the feast. That's what we do. As servants, we obey the king. 

What are His orders? “The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” Note what's missing from these orders. We are not ordered to evaluate any potential guest's wardrobe. We are not ordered to assess their moral worthiness; their social standing, wealth, health, looks, or family ties. We are not ordered to invite only those who look like us, sound like us, think like us, or believe like us. The king's order are crystal clear, “Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” Whomever we find might be poorly dressed or morally rotten; or high-born and ugly as sin; or low-born and beautiful; or just plain folks with nothing much to do that evening. “Whomever you find” is an all-encompassing category that makes it very difficult not to invite whomever we might find. That's our job. It's what we do. After those we have invited to the feast get here, then it's the king's job to sort them all out. Not ours. The guy who's bounced out into the darkness is bounced out into the darkness b/c he's not properly dressed. In parabolic terms, he's not properly disposed, not internally prepared to receive food and drink from the Lord's generous table. He's not wearing the heart and mind of one who's accepted an invitation to party eternally with the Father's Son. 

In case we're missing the point of the parable, Jesus sums it up for us, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” In fact, everyone is invited but not everyone will show up. And even some of us who show up will choose to turn away from the more difficult requirements of staying at the table. In our modernist rush to be politically correct and all-inclusive, we've mistakenly come to believe that b/c we were invited into the Church just as we are, there's no need for us to put on the mind of Christ, repent, and seek after righteousness. We're fine as is, thank you very much. This parable points out our error. Coming to Christ in his Church entails a willingness, an eagerness to receive the Father's freely offered mercy and to turn away from sin and death. Yes, absolutely, come as you are! But stay so that you might be remade into a more perfect you in him. Our job as servants is to invite whomever find. It is Christ's job to turn the filthy rags of sin into the proper wedding garment. 

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1 comment:

  1. "Parabolically" - at first I thought, math? No. Then, medicine? No. Then I figured it out :-).

    This is good. OK, I had not considered "us" as the servants, but that is probably because I so recently was one of the "rabble" who needed to be invited....back; or maybe I was just a servant on a very extended lunch-break!. I really liked the 2nd paragraph, and most of the third - but something, and I can't put my finger on it - bothered me about that final paragraph. Not necessarily the content; maybe it was more "casual" than the rest of the homily? I do think it was more of a style problem (for me - probably not for anyone else) than anything.