Ordinary of the Mass
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The Gospel this morning is taken
from Saint Matthew's account (chapter 22).
It is very similar to Saint Luke's account (chapter 14),
and for years I had always assumed that both Matthew and Luke were
describing the same event, and that the differences were due to nothing more
than the two writers perspective on what was important and the quality of
their memories—Luke, after all, was very probably not an eye witness.
But just a few days ago, I read a sermon
by the very erudite Pope Saint Gregory the Great who held that these were two
different parables uttered by our Lord on two separate occasions, with two
He was probably correct for Matthew's account comes after our Lord's entrance
into Jerusalem, while Luke's comes well before.
Pope Gregory suggests that today's
parable of a wedding feast relates to the Incarnation. In the conception of
Jesus Christ the Blessed Virgin was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, and the
Second Person of the Blessed Trinity united human nature to His divine nature.
Jesus Christ is but one Person but by virtue of the Incarnation those two
natures are united in that unique Person. We call this the “hypostatic union.”
This “union” was to enable our Lord to take the sins of mankind upon Himself,
that He might suffer and die for our Redemption on the Cross. The wedding
dinner is an allegory of the Church here on earth with countless guests invited
to participate in their Redemption and to prepare for eternal life with our
Some people reject God's
invitation—indeed, some of them quite violently—being more interested in their
“farms and businesses,” which is to say that they are more concerned with the
material world than with eternal life. The parable suggests that a great many
are reluctant to take part in their Redemption—that they are a mixture of good
people and bad people—and that they must be induced to enter the dinner of the
Church. While the parable has the king sending his army—while that is not
literally true in the case of the Church, we can think of the Church’s army as
being those who pray for the salvation of souls, and those who do penance, as
well as being those who publish and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Remember that this army of pray-ers and
preachers brings in the good as well as the bad. In the final analysis it is up
to God to determine who will enter into eternal life and who will be cast out
into the “exterior darkness” of eternity in the company of the devils. The man
without the wedding garment, Pope Gregory tells us, is just one example of the
judgement to which everyone will be called.
Now, in case anyone thinks that the king
was unjust in demanding proper dress of a man who had literally been compelled
to attend the dinner, it should be pointed out that guests arriving in their
street clothes were expected to cover their clothes with a sort of cape or
shawl, made in festive colors and provided by the host.
The man without the wedding garment was just being too lazy to pick one out and
put it on—he didn’t have to go anywhere to get his garment, for the king was
providing one for him.
The “wedding garment” required for entry
into eternal life is Charity—one of the theological virtues given to us by
God.. “Charity,” you will recall is the word used in the New Testament for
“disinterested love”—perhaps the love of two friends, or the love of a parent
for a child (not the romantic love of the soap operas). The wedding garment of
Jesus’ time would have been a long and broad shawl one would wear over the
shoulders, covering the linen alb so common around the Mediterranean. This long
piece of material, Pope Gregory reminds us, would be woven between two wooden
beams—one at the top of the work and another at its bottom. Both of these beams
are necessary in order to produce a proper wedding garment. Gregory holds that
the two beams symbolize the two loves necessary for salvation—the love of God
and the love of neighbor.
These two loves are already found in the
pray-ers and the penitents and the preachers and publishers—their aim, after
all, is to glorify God by bringing their neighbors to eternal happiness. Yet
even these members of God’s “army” would do well to attend to Saint Paul's words
in today’s epistle.
And even more, if we are not inclined to be a preacher of a penitent (everyone
should be a pray‑er)—if we are not inclined to be part of God's army, we must
we pay very careful heed to Saint Paul.
We must be renewed. We must be
re‑created “according to God in justice and holiness of truth.” That is to say
that for the love of God, we must deal with our neighbors in an honorable way:
always speaking truth, never being angry for long, never taking what belongs to
others, always working productively in order to relieve the needs of those who
lack the necessities of life. This is the “wedding garment” we are to wear—the
only garment that will prevent us from being cast “into the exterior darkness:
[where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
We must wear the wedding garment of