Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
There are two similar parables in which people are invited to a great feast, but many turn down the invitation. Today’s is found in Saint Matthew’s Gospel; the other, from Saint Luke’s Gospel is read on the Second Sunday after Pentecost. From the chronology of the Gospels it appears that our Lord related these parables at two separate times—they seem not to be just the different recollections of Matthew and Luke. That suggests that there was some urgency that people understand the concept of accepting the invitation to the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the parable related by saint Luke, the invited guests simply make excuses: “I must go and see my new property,” “I must try out my new yoke of oxen,” “I have just married, so I cannot attend.” But in today’s Gospel the behavior of those invited is far more reprehensible: “They treated his servants shamefully, and killed them.”
Both parables, of course, allude to the Kingdom of God set up on earth so that God can redeem His people from the Original Sin of Adam, as well as from their own personal sins. There is both a public and a personal dimension. We can think of the wedding feast as representing God’s Church on earth—and at the same time we can think of it as a banquet in which the most Blessed Sacrament is the main course, surrounded by all of the other Sacraments and sacramentals that God serves so freely to us.
In the public dimension the invitation is ancient. Immediately after the fall of Adam, God promised to send a woman whose Seed would crush the head of the serpent and return mankind to grace. The invitation was extended thereafter to others: Noe, Abraham, and Moses come to mind, among many others. The Psalmist even speaks of “glorifying God among the nations [foreign to Israel].” And God Himself is recorded by Isaias as saying: “I shall gather nations of every language, they shall come and see my glory.” “In the fullness of time,” He sent His Son as a personal messenger to extend the invitation in a more direct and personal way. Much to our good fortune, He told a Roman Centurion that “Many will come from the east and the west, and will feast with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven.” So the invitation to join the public Kingdom of God is widespread indeed, stretching even to the ends of the earth.
But, sadly enough—just like in the parables—there are many who refuse the invitation. Some of them have excuses: “I just don’t have the time.” “I am more preoccupied with the things of this world, and have no interest in the things of heaven.” “I have just married, so I cannot attend.”
But others are yet far worse. As the invitees in today’s Gospel, they have “treated God’s servants shamefully, and killed them.” They killed the Son of God, all but one of His Apostles, an uncountable number of martyrs that continues on to this very day. A certain nun in Somalia comes to mind, and a priest in Iraq.
Our Lord told the Centurion that while “many would come from the [nations of the] east and the west ... the children of the kingdom would be put out into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Interesting, isn’t it? That is the same phrase that our Lord employed in speaking of the man without a wedding garment: “Put him into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
We might ask, who is this man without a wedding garment? and why was he expected to have one on, seeing how he was just brought in from the street?
I’ve not been able to establish the truth of this, but I once heard a sermon in which I was told that the outer garment for a formal dinner in a wealthy house in Israel was supplied by the host. During the heat of the day, people walked about in a linen garment much like the alb that priests wear for Mass—a long sack-like affair, gathered in at the waist with a rope. When they relaxed at table, in the cool of the evening, the host would furnish them with an outer cloak from his ample wardrobe—it would keep him warm, and the tailoring of the garment would add festivity to the party. If a guest joined the dinner without a festive garment it was through his own fault—he simply had not bothered to stop in the cloak room to dress correctly for the occasion. Whether the account was true or not, it seems to agree with what our Lord was saying in the parable.
The man without a wedding garment is one who has learned about God and His Son, but has rejected them. He prefers to cling to his old ways, continuing in mistaken beliefs and bad behavior. He was offered the garment of Faith, but had no inclination to put it on.
The man without a wedding garment is one who received the Faith in Baptism, but allowed that faith to die for lack of charity—the love of God and the love of neighbor for the love of God. “For even if I have faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have charity, I am nothing.” God offered him the garment of Charity, but he refused to put it on.
The man without a wedding garment is one who received the Faith, loved God for a while, and then gave up Hope, turning from God’s ways to the ways of sin and eternal death—never even thinking to ask forgiveness of God in his heart.
The man without a wedding garment is any and all of these. We can only commend them to our prayers and good example. Just let us be sure that we never find ourselves in their place.
Let us be sure that we preserve the Faith as we have received it from those who have gone before us—ultimately from Jesus Christ and the Apostles—keeping that Faith untarnished and unscratched as though it were a precious jewel wrapped in silk
Let us be sure that we preserve Hope, the knowledge that we will one day be with God in heaven if we but cooperate with His graces—nourishing that Hope by remaining habitually in the state of grace, doing nothing that would place us in the darkness outside.
Let us be sure that we preserve Charity, the love of God, by joining our love to His love very frequently in prayer and meditation—by doing good for our neighbors for the love of Him.
Finally, let us preserve all of these things—Faith, Hope, and Charity—by frequently taking part in the wedding feast of the King’s Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The invitation is not for just a day or a night. Rather we are invited to sit down at the sacrificial banquet of the Lord, each and every day that we are in the state of grace. Lets be sure that we make no frivolous excuses, lest we find that through our coldness and carelessness we find ourselves cast into the darkness outside, where those who refuse the Lord’s invitation find themselves weeping and gnashing their teeth in eternity.
 Cf. Gospel: Matthew xxii: 1-14.
 Luke xiv: 16-24.
 Psalm xvii: 50.
 Isaias lxvi: 18.
 Matthew viii: 11.
 Matthew viii: 12.
 After writing this sermon, I found the same idea expressed in a children’s e-Book, Mother Stories from the New Testament, in the public domain at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17163/17163-h/17163-h.htm.