28th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Another parable of the kingdom and another warning that those unprepared for the heavenly feast will find themselves cast into darkness. Our Lord has been on a roll these last few weeks, preaching a gospel message that contemporary Catholics aren’t quite used to hearing! Maybe I’m wrong, but my sense is that most of us don’t often hear many homilies about the goats, the weeds, the bad fish, the lazy virgins, or the poorly dressed wedding guest. We hear a lot about the sheep, the wheat, the good fish, the well-prepared virgins, and the festively dressed wedding guests. These images better fit a comfortable, American vision of who we hope Jesus was back then, and who we want him to be now. Don't worry. I don’t intend to blast you with Hellfire and Brimstone this evening! But I can’t claim to be a preacher of the gospel, and then fail to preach the gospel right in front of me. This evening, we aren't hearing from our familiar, comfortable, American Jesus. We're hearing from Christ, our Righteous Judge!
We need to get something straight right from the start: you do not have to spend eternity with God. You do not have to receive or make use of the grace you’ve been given. You do not have to repent, confess, or enjoy freedom from sin. You don’t have to go to confession, come to Mass, take communion, say your prayers, do good works, live charitably with one another, or even forgive a single offense against you. You can ignore the grace you’ve been given. You can stride along the path of rebellion and disobedience. You can remain a slave to sin and do the bidding of your lowest passions as much as you want. You can skip confession, blow off Mass, forget your prayers, ignore the needy among us, hate one another and wallow in self-pitying angry and regret. You can be, if you choose, a goat, a bundle of weeds, a bad fish, a lazy virgin, or a badly dressed wedding guest. God will honor your choice out of His limitless love, and you can spend your afterlife as you lived in this life: without Him. And that’s the Catholic definition of Hell: “[a] state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed […]” (CCC n.1033).
In the parable of the Wedding Feast, the guest who arrives poorly dressed is thrown out into the darkness b/c he has refused to put on the garments of repentance. He wears his slave clothes. His rags are a gift from the Liar who has convinced him that he’s wearing Gucci! In fact, his rags identify him as a willful servant of disobedience. The master of the house invites good and bad alike. But to be allowed in – good and bad – have on the garments of repentance. Not the garments of absolute moral perfection. Not the garments of spotless holiness. But the garments that identify them as willing – even if imperfect for now – to be servants of the Master Himself.
The poorly dressed guest, the unrepentant one, is not tossed out b/c he comes to the feast for the free food, the free liquor, the good company. No, he’s tossed out b/c he comes seeking all the benefits of the Master’s Truth and Goodness and Beauty, but he himself is unwilling to take on truth, goodness, and beauty in return. In other words, he wants to feast at the Master’s banquet table, but he’s unwilling to abide by the Master’s Party Rules. “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Paul gives us the secret of the Wedding Feast: “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. . .My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” God will provide the party dress, the tux for the feast. There is no reason for any of us to show up at the feast improperly dressed. From the limitless riches of Christ Jesus we are provided with everything we need to celebrate the feast when we are and where we are right now. Just ask. Paul says that he is able to live with scarcity, live in abundance, live well-fed and hungry, in every circumstance b/c his strength, his purpose, his drive comes through the Father. Not through his own willpower. Not through his own mighty character. Not through his own education or his social standing. But through Him who empowers us all.
The Good News this evening is that you don’t have to be a goat, a bundle of weeds, a bad fish, a lazy virgin, or a poorly dressed wedding guest. You can be. But you don’t have to be. Jesus died to give you the option of coming to the Wedding Feast decked out in the spiritual equivalent of Prada, Gucci, Chanel, and Burberry. Just ask. Just ask and gratefully receive. “[Our] God will fully supply whatever you need.”
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