Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost—25 September AD 2016

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    The Gospel this morning is taken from Saint Matthew's account (chapter 22).[1]  It is very similar to Saint Luke's account (chapter 14)[2], 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 different meanings.[3]  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 Redeemer.

    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.[4]  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.[5]  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 God’s love!

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