GK Chesterton once commented that people misunderstand the relationship of Jesus and the Church. They often think that Jesus is simple and nice, but the Church has made things complicated and confusing. The opposite is true. Jesus is sometimes complicated and confusing and the Church has tried to make things a little more simple and understandable. Today’s Gospel is a perfect example.
Jesus tells a parable about a king who invites all the important people to a banquet to celebrate his Son’s wedding. They refuse to come and go on to their own business or their farm. Some abuse or kill his servants, so he destroys them and burns their city. Then he sends servants out to the streets to invite everyone, even the rabble and the bad people. Now, just when we think that the Kingdom is open to everyone, Jesus throws in a disturbing twist: a man shows up not properly dressed, and gets thrown out on the street. How should we understand this? Here are a couple reflections.
Accept the Invitation
The Gospel does not understand the world in terms of Church people and hell-raisers, good people and bad people, sinners and saints, righteous and unrighteous. No, a Christian sees every single person without exception is loved by God. There are those who accept God’s love and those who reject it. This is the choice we are offered. How often do we get caught up in our business or our farm and fail to simply accept God’s love? It’s the only thing that really matters.
Keep your Garment Clean
What about the man not wearing the proper wedding garment? It’s not about membership, its about Discipleship. It isn’t enough to just be a member of the Church. Where else does this “wedding garment” show up?
- At Baptism we put a white garment on the child and say:
You have become a new creation,and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.
- At a funeral we put a white pall on the casket.
- The saints in the Book of Revelation have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. ” (Rev. 7:14)
- At a Wedding, the bride wears a white wedding dress as a sign of purity.
(Imagine how people might act differently if the color of their wedding clothes actually did reflect where they had been and what they had done before marriage).
Our “Christian Dignity” is God’s gift to us at baptism. We have to not only accept God’s love. We also have to live it. St. Catherine talks about taking off the soiled garments of our selfishness and clothing ourselves in the clean white robe of unselfish love. Membership is not enough. We are invited to be Disciples and walk with the Lord. Our Gospel is both sobering but also comforting. Comforting because all are invited. Sobering because few accept.
I want to invite you some time this week to pray one Our Father very slowly. Then reflect on this question: “If I really believed God was my loving Father, what is one thing I would do differently?”
(9 Oct 2011)