Ordinary of the Mass
“And he sent his servant, at the hour of supper, to say to
them that were invited, that they should come, for now all things are ready.
And they began all at once to make excuses.”
If you are using a missal printed after
1955, you may not be aware that this is the Sunday within the Octave of
Corpus Christi. (That’s the reason for the white vestments, when you
might have been expecting green.) Before 1955 eighteen important feasts
were celebrated with an octave—with some mention of the feast every day for
a week following it.
Some of them had a proper Mass for each of the eight days, some just
repeated or commemorated the Mass of the feast day. Corpus Christi
was one of the latter, but it had a rich variety of readings in the Divine
Corpus Christi, of course commemorates the Body and Blood of Jesus
Christ, specifically as we have them in the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Mass.
I mention Corpus Christi, because
it sheds a bit of light on the selection of this Gospel about people making
excuses so that they didn’t have to attend the great feast. Saint Matthew’s
Gospel (Ch. XXII)
seems to tell the same story, additionally identifying the host as a King,
who gave the feast in honor of his son’s wedding. It is easy to see the
King as God the Father, honoring God the Son, Jesus Christ. Of course,
Jesus never married a woman, but the Bible contains numerous passages in
which the Father identifies Himself as the husband of the Jewish people, and
Jesus as the husband of the Church.
My favorite is in the Apocalypse, where it refers to the celebration just
after God “judged the great harlot which corrupted the earth with her
fornication, and hath revenged the blood of his servants, at her hands.”
That celebration is called “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
The Lamb, of course, is Jesus Christ—the Lamb of God—and the marriage is His
union with the souls of the just, while the evil are condemned.
Holy Mass is far more than a wedding
feast, but that analogy does help us to know the Joy of God in the salvation
of the souls of His people. We know from the book of Genesis, that from the
moment of the fall of Adam and Eve, God intended to redeem the human race
and restore mankind’s eternal destiny, as He said to the serpent: “I
will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she
shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”
The woman would be the Virgin Mary, and her seed would be Jesus Christ.
If the biblical account is to be taken
literally, it would be four thousand long years before Jesus Christ took on
our human nature in order to redeem us, plus thirty-three years more until
the crushing of Satan’s head in the crucifixion. This long period of
anticipation made Father and Son all the more joyous in its fulfillment.
About a year before offering His body
and blood in the Sacrifice of the Cross, our Lord revealed His plan to allow
mankind to share in this Sacrifice in an un-bloody manner. You can read
about it in the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, something which I urge
you to do.
He began by feeding five thousand men
(the Latin “viri” indicates “males,” so the total number was perhaps
a few thousand larger, including men and women) from five loaves and two
fishes, and having leftovers that filled a dozen baskets.
But then He promised the real miracle. He reminded
them that their forefathers ate bread that fell from the sky during the
Exodus from Egypt—but even though this “manna” was a divine gift,
their forefathers all died. But now, Jesus would give them the true Bread
I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not
hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst….
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it,
he may not die…. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and
the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.
And just like in today’s parable, Jesus
heard the first excuses:
How can this man give us his flesh to eat?... Many therefore
of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear
it?... After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with
A year later they crucified Him,
returning murder for love!
In Saint Matthew’s account, some went
far beyond making excuses to those sent to summon them to the wedding feast:
The rest laid hands upon his servants, and insulted and
killed them. The king fell into a rage when he heard of it, and sent out
his roops to put those murderers to death, and burn their city.
But God’s reaction to the rejection of
His Son was the opposite—returning love for murder. On the night before He
died He gave the Apostles the power to do what He did, turning bread and
wine into His body and blood. On the night of His Resurrection, Jesus
returned to the Upper Room and gave His Apostles the power to forgive sins.
Shortly before His Ascension into heaven, Jesus extended the wedding feast
invitation to “all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
That universal invitation includes all
of us, or course. But one final note remains. At the end of Matthew’s
account of the wedding supper, the King sees a man who has refused to put on
the wedding garment, furnished by the King, and has the
man tied up and thrown outside. God Himself furnishes our wedding
garment—it is made of faith and sanctifying grace—we should always be
wearing this garment, but especially when we come to partake of the Bread of
Life in the marriage feast of Jesus Christ—whenever we receive Holy
Communion. We must come with faith to believe that He can, in fact, give us
His body and blood to eat and drink. We must come in sanctifying grace,
free from attraction to and the guilt of mortal sin.
Attend this marriage feast frequently—we
are invited every day, so let’s try not to make lame excuses like those in