28th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year A)
I’m not sure about you, but often when I read one of the gospels I can be confused as to what the actual meaning might be.
Today’s gospel from Matthew is one of those confusing gospels for me, at least it was initially.
Preparing for this homily I needed to spend some time looking into the specific references to understand what was actually being said.
After the use of a few concordances the parable began to come alive as is true for most parables once we begin to understand the deeper meaning and hidden message.
This parable however contains a deep and troubling message for many of us here today.
It speaks of faith, and how faith alone may grant you a meeting with God but not necessarily entrance into heaven.
Let’s take a closer look at the details of the parable.
First of all we must understand that the story is actually describing God as the King, Jesus as the son, and the bride is the invisible kingdom of heaven here on earth.
The first guests that were invited and who refused to come to the banquet were the Jewish people and their leaders, God’s chosen people.
They rejected God’s invitation.
Those of the second invitation were the gentiles, the non-Jewish people.
Some of them ignored the invitation and went away without giving the invitation another thought, while others not only rejected it, but fought fervently against the kingdom in opposition.
But our God, our King, being the merciful and forgiving Lord that he is, reaching out again and invited everyone, saints and sinners to the feast.
He invited anyone who cared to come.
They were invited to participate in the Kingdom of God.
Now this is where the story gets interesting, and the idea of the wedding garment can be confusing to some.
Thankfully Pope Benedict, citing Saint Gregory the Great in one of his homilies clarified that the wedding garment is actually a reference to charity, meaning love and service.
Now knowing this, the parable begins to make sense.
In other words, probably everyone who had arrived at the banquet had faith, but those who had failed to practice charity in their lives, meaning Love of God and neighbor, they did not gain admittance.
Still a little confused?
Let’s look at the scripture once again now knowing what we know.
“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the King came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘my friend how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’”
The man was silent; he knew exactly what God was saying.
He had passed from this world onto the next and was being judged for his life on earth.
Both he and God knew the truth and the man had nothing to say.
Actually there wasn’t anything to say or that could be said, the time to act had already passed.
God being a God of justice, then ordered the man to be cast out and into the darkness where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
We all know what and where that place is….. It’s HELL!
And the parable ends by reminding us that, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
This message left me feeling more than a little troubled.
I always wanted to think of God as being infinitely merciful and forgiving, which he is, but I so often forget that he is also a God of Justice and that we will be judged for how we lived our lives while here on earth.
This parable made to stop and think about my own life, and how God will probably see me when I stand before him face to face.
Yes, I have faith, and so do you, if we didn’t we wouldn’t be here today. But so did everyone else who was invited to the banquet, they also had faith. Yet, Faith alone isn’t enough, isn’t that what Jesus is telling us in the parable.
Please don’t misunderstand what I am trying to say today. We don’t earn our way into heaven, or earn our salvation; Jesus already took care of that. But we do make choices in life; those choices are called our free will.
We either respond by living a Christian life in action and deed, or we do not, there really isn’t a category of being “A pretty good Catholic.”
One of my favorite scriptures is from the book of James and speaks of faith and works.
Saint James clearly states that Faith without works is a faith that is dead.
What a startling message for us here today.
Thinking that we might just be one of those people who have believed and believed without a doubt, and thought that we would be welcomed in heaven at our time of death, yet we might just be judged unworthy to gain entrance when that time comes upon us.
I think Jesus might be asking us to open our eyes a little wider and to take a step back and ask ourselves a few questions.
Have we loved enough?
Have we forgiven enough?
Have we cared for others enough?
Have we truly lived a life of service to others,
or have we lived a life of mostly serving ourselves?
After pondering these questions for some time I came to the realization that to answer them honesty my answer to all of them would need to “No!
I have not done enough!”
I might assume also that some of you, if you gave the questions deep and honest thought, you might just be in a similar situation.
Believing in Christ is wonderful, but it is Christ and His Spirit in us that should be constantly changing us.
We should be growing in humility, patience, love, and charity each day of our lives.
This transformation is what empowers us to do the works of a sincere Christian.
In a few minutes we will be receiving Christ in the Holy Eucharist, we should allow him to change us, purify us, inspire us, and guide us.
The most powerful thing we can do is to worthily accept Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and then respond to his call.
That call is so often heard in the quiet of our hearts, and that is why a time of quiet and prayer is so important after receiving communion.
Yet, we have to want to hear his voice.
We have to want to be changed.
We have to want to be a sincere follower of Christ.
Although today’s gospel contains a sobering message, it also contains the good news.
The good news is that we are still here on earth, we still have a free will, and that we can begin this minute thinking about our lives in a different way.
Thinking about how we treat our family, how we treat those sitting next us in church, and how we treat those in need that we haven’t even met yet.
We can choose to be people of action; with our smiles, our kindness, our love, our charity, and our friendships, or we can chose to be something else.
The Good News is that we have heard God speak today through the Gospel, we have understood his warning, and hopefully we can be inspired and guided by His Spirit to not only respond to the invitation to the banquet, but to also be invited in, and accepted as eternal guests into the heavenly kingdom forever and ever, Amen.