28th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Imagine: you go into the hospital with a terrible but curable disease. Your doc plans out your treatment. When the time comes to start the medications, you refuse to take them. Your doc is confused but honors your wishes and begins the discharge paperwork. You inform the doc that you don't want to leave the hospital. Even better, you'd like to arrange it so that you can be admitted to the hospital once every week. No meds, no surgery, no therapy of any kind. Just an hour in bed and you go home. The doc agrees and gives you a pamphlet outlining some things you can do to help treat your terrible but curable disease. You take the info, read it, and promptly throw it away when you get home. You've come to believe that your weekly visit to the hospital is sufficient to cure your ailment. You feel OK for a few weeks. Then, after one of your weekly visits, you drop dead outside the hospital. How many here tonight think that this is a truly bizarre way to behave – sick, you refuse treatment but insist on staying close to the source of your cure? Isn't this how many of us think about our faith? Weekly visits to church is just enough to treat and cure our spiritual diseases. Jesus says, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Tonight's parable tells us that everyone is invited to the Wedding Feast. From the lowest to the highest; from the smallest to the largest; rich, poor; black, white; male, female; Democrat, Republican; everyone! And it's possible that everyone invited to the Feast will show up. But this is no ordinary feast; it's the Wedding Feast of the Lamb – a party to celebrate the eternal marriage of Christ to his bride, the Church. Those who accept their invitation are expected to show up properly dressed; that is, properly prepared to party forever with Christ in heaven. You wouldn't show up to a wedding on Earth wearing flip-flops, short-shorts, and an AC/DC tee-shirt – especially if you were a member of the bridal party! And you are a member of the bridal party. You are a member of the Church, the Bride. So, accepting your invitation to the Wedding Feast begins with baptism. You put on the white garment of new life, and you proceed through the years to add to your Christian wardrobe, always thinking ahead to the Big Party to come. How do you go about acquiring the articles of clothing you need to Party Well in heaven? Over your lifetime, how do you choose to put your wedding outfit together?
Start by considering what you do not do. You do not come to believe that the absolute bare minimum is enough. Sure, those flip-flops, short-shorts, and AC/DC tee-shirt cover all the necessary body parts. You aren't naked at the Party. And sure, baptism, confirmation, weekly Mass, and a yearly confession cover all the basics. You haven't lived a life-time w/o receiving some of the basic graces. These most basic of the graces keep you coming back – for the most part. Another thing you do not do in assembling your Wedding Garment is come to believe that just any old piece of clothing will serve your eternal end. Sure, that hot pink bandanna on your head looks good with your tee-shirt, and those black socks look comfortable under your shower shoes. And sure, praying the rosary three times a day and fasting on Fridays helps you remember that you are Catholic. Absolutely nothing wrong with hot pink bandannas, black socks, the rosary, or fasting! But your Wedding Garment needs more than the bare minimum and a few flashy accessories. Your Wedding Garment must be in fashion for eternity. It must be durable, proper to the occasion, and serve as a sign of your all-consuming love and devotion to Christ. Your Wedding Garment must be made from 100% pure charity.
You've received your invitation to the Feast. You've accepted the invitation. Now, you are gathering the pieces of your Wedding Garment. We know that the bare minimum and flashy accessories aren't enough. You need a lifetime of loving God, yourself, and others to put this garment together. You need a lifetime of doing spiritual and corporeal works of mercy; acts of selfless love, words and deeds that proclaim to the world that you belong to Christ. You need a lifetime of personal prayer – private conversations with God in the Spirit – listening to His will and making His will manifest in the world. You need a lifetime of allowing yourself to be transformed into Christ so that those around you can see and hear him in your flesh. A lifetime, Father? Yes. What if I've spent decades doing the bare minimum and collecting flashy accessories? No problem. Your lifetime begins again at the moment of repentance and confession. If you will stay at the Party, start now gathering your Wedding Garment. Once the wailing and gnashing of teeth begins, it is too late. Jesus says, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Choose to Party with Christ forever.
→ You've probably heard about the desecration of the altar at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Pearl River. If you haven't, go on-line to get the details. I can't repeat them here. Archbishop Aymond has released a statement, condemning the incident, and the priest involved, Fr. Tavis Clark, has been arrested and suspended from ministry. As your “sort of pastor” for the last eight years and as a seminary professor and formator, I need to say something too. What happened in PR is an abomination. It was a demonic attack on the Church, on all of us – the sort of attack that we are seeing more and more frequently these days. We can and should expect more of this sort of thing as our nation moves further away from God and His will for us. The Enemy wants you to be horrified. He wants you to be outraged and vengeful. He wants you to lash out at the archbishop, at your priests, the Church in general. He wants you to leave in disgust and despair. And, honestly, I can understand those who do. Like the abuse scandals that rocked us years ago, this incident, along with the revelations about Fr. Pat Wattigny, gnaw away at our trust and leave us believing that the Church is wholly beyond saving. We've had about 40yrs of bad catechesis, terrible preaching, made-up liturgies, secularized pastoral care, and bureaucratized bishops. Along with all this came seminary formation programs that taught heresy, preached about mercy but never sin, and trained young men to be “ministry facilitators” rather than Spiritual Fathers. Despite the best efforts of the revolutionaries in the Church, most seminarians came out of formation and served as good priests. Some didn't. I want to assure you that the young men being formed at Notre Dame Seminary right now are being formed by a team of faithful, orthodox priests and lay professors. All of us on faculty at NDS think with the Church. Our guys are assigned individually to one of the seven priest-formators who meet with them monthly to review their progress. The seminarians pray a Holy Hour everyday. They pray Morning and Evening Prayer as a community and celebrate Mass daily. They each have a spiritual director they meet with monthly. Their academic work is tightly tied to the tradition of the Church, and their human formation is rooted in acquiring and perfecting Christian virtue. Underneath all of this is the constant exhortation to embrace Spiritual Fatherhood as a priest. Does all this prevent problems from arising? No. Of course not. Seminarians are human. Some leave. Some are dismissed. The formators and professors are human too. This means that we need your prayers and sacrifices to defend us in battle. I am deeply proud to be part of the NDS community. We have turned out some amazing priests. Please! Pray for them and pray for us.
Now, to conclude, if the Enemy has gotten to you, if you're thinking that the Church is beyond saving, and you're disgusted and despairing, I need you to hear this: Christ has won. The war is over. Christ is the Victor. And you and I, as members of his Body, are victorious with him. We have our battles to fight until Christ returns, but never for a moment doubt that Christ has already won. Our battles are over whether or not you and I will remain members of his victorious Body, the Church. Not just the Church on earth – but the Mystical Body that spans all times and places. The Enemy has always attacked the Church. It's his nature. But the Church endures b/c we have the Holy Spirit on our side. Battles can be ugly. But keep your eye on the prize. Don't let the Enemy distract you with his theatrics and abominations. It's not worth you immortal soul.
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