Today we are celebrating God’s infinite goodness to us in Jesus Christ His Son, Our Lord, in the context of His yearly generosity to us in the harvest. There is a close connection between these two aspects of God's love for us, a connection which the celebrant highlights in the course of Mass:
Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made: it will become for us the bread of life;
and, when offering the wine, he says:
Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands: it will become our spiritual drink.
In that way we are led to recognize that not only is the whole of God’s creation good, but also that, because of its natural goodness, the whole of God’s creation can become a channel for our supernatural sanctification while the abuse of God’s good creation inevitably brings with it retribution, natural or spiritual.
We know, of course, that there is a great difference between natural goodness and the nourishment needed for supernatural life: food from the ground sustains natural life for but a limited time whereas supernatural life is both eternal and divine. Earthly bread and wine can, therefore, only sustain and support supernatural life when they have been transformed into the very Body and Blood of the Risen Christ, under the blessing of His Word and by the power of His Spirit; and our understanding this relationship between natural good and supernatural blessing, puts us in a position to appreciate more truly the significance of Isaiah's words:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
Such an earthly, natural, picture can well imply an infinitely more splendid, joyous, and fulfilling, occasion: a banquet of heavenly proportions; this Isaiah foresaw and intended, because after those words describing an earthly feast:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines;
he then went on immediately to speak of the spiritual blessings of heavenly life, a life without death or suffering, eternal blessedness:
On this mountain He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; He will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people He will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!”
“On this mountain”, that is, on the high place where ancient peoples used to gather in order to approach God as closely as they physically could, the better to worship Him. Today we do not ascend mountains, not even that of Jerusalem intended by Isaiah; no, we come to Mother Church where God has promised to abide with all who seek Him; we come to Mother Church which is the Body of Christ, vivified, guided, and protected to the end of time by the Holy Spirit of both the Father and the Son. In Mother Church, then, “He will destroy death for ever” and “wipe away the tears from all faces”: for all those, that is, who seek to find in her how great is His goodness and how sweet His saving grace; all those who, subsequently, will be able to say: “Behold our God, to Whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for Whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!”
Today, very many people have little or no trust in God: indeed, in our Western world, many find themselves so well-off, so socially distracted, so ‘high’, as to think that they do not need anyone to save them; they consider that they have plenty of what they want, think they can easily get more, and consequently cannot see themselves in need of anything for which they might have to pray before some God. And what is even more, they do not, will not, acknowledge any God able to exercise any authority whatsoever in their lives, no God before whom they might feel responsible.
Now, that is the precisely the situation painted by Our Lord in the parable we heard about the wedding feast and those invited to it. The Father has prepared this banquet for His Son and the guests ignored the invitation given them. The Father sent a further and urgent request for their presence at the banquet, but some cursed and killed those who brought His invitation, while others, perhaps, contented themselves with just mocking the messengers; it matters little, however, the result was the same: they were not going to the banquet, they had much else, more important and more interesting, to attend to.
Today, in our society, the very same drama is being unwittingly prepared: our worldly well-being will certainly end; what may now seem to be mere flies-in-the-ointment will fester and the bubble will, soon enough, burst. Why? Because godlessness cannot resist, let alone master, the forces of destruction becoming rampant in a world embracing sin and rejoicing in godlessness as does ours today:
Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)
There is nothing in this world, neither power nor money, neither science nor technology, and most certainly not our own moral pretensions, that can save us from the evil, lodged and seeking to become rooted, in the human heart, and from the weakness inherent to our human make-up. God alone -- in and through Jesus Christ – saves, by His Holy Spirit, those who have faith in Him.
In the Gospel story there were some, the poor and the needy, the bad and good alike, who were urgently invited by circumstances to come to the banquet; it did not matter who they were or where they came from; all that mattered to the king was what they became once they were in the banqueting hall.
We are told that the King Himself came in to see His guests sitting at the tables and:
When he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence.
What is that “wedding garment”? St. Paul tells us when he says (Romans 13:14):
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts.
The rich and the prosperous in the Gospel passage were fully occupied making such important provisions for the well-being of their flesh and the fulfilment of its desires, that they refused the wedding invitation; and likewise today, you do not usually find those who seek fame and power, cultivate influence and promote pride, in Church; because such people want to remain, prosper, and even to proclaim themselves, whereas we in mother Church as disciples of Jesus are called, as you heard, to put on Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Our parable speaks of only one guest being found in the wedding hall without a wedding garment because he represented ALL those who for whatever reason rejected the King’s invitation: the absolutely essential thing was that he was not wearing a wedding garment, that is he had not, as St. Paul tells us, put on Christ. And today: the rich and the prosperous -- be they openly irreligious or confirmed, secret, hypocrites – they all have neither wanting nor will for a Lord with authority in their lives, nor need of a Saviour to free them from their sins; for they refuse to acknowledge they have any sins and they will not allow anyone – even God Himself (if He or his Son really exists) -- to have any authority in their lives.
The majority of those to be found in Church are, according to the vociferous non-believers, hypocrites. But who do they have they in mind when speaking so dismissively of the church-goers they contemn?
It is true that, those who go to Church yet hold on tightly to themselves there, serving their own purposes, following their own lights, rather than loving the Lord and living in obedience to His teaching and the commands of His Church, can indeed be counted among the hypocrites so frequently decried by those outside the Church and whom Jesus had in mind when He said, in His parable:
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.
But our Gospel message today is not against the ‘small time’ sinners who can be found in the Church of Christ and who are so disdainfully ‘tarred’ as hypocrites by those outside. Far from it; today’s Gospel parable is for all those of members of Mother Church who are humble and contrite enough to want indeed to put on Christ as Paul told us, and who -- by His Spirit -- sincerely acknowledge and try to leave behind their own weak and sinful selves for His sake. Those, accepted by the Father to partake of the feast He has prepared for the glory of His Son and their own joyous future well-being, may be likened to those in our parable who had put on the wedding vestment donated by the King and who – unaccustomed to such finery -- were still perhaps somewhat uncomfortable in it. After all, does not the parable tell us that the King told his servants to:
Go out, therefore, to the main roads, into the streets, and gather and invite all they found, good and bad alike, to the feast until the hall is filled.
Those poorer ‘invitees’ came to the feast wanting a square meal at the King’s good table; Christians likewise go to Church needing: God’s forgiveness, grace, peace, hope and promised fulfilment.
People of God, we cannot fail, especially at harvest time, to recognize that God’s creation is both bountiful and beautiful: a source of life and great joy for us. But we must not allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in the beauty and desirability of this earthly banquet as to ignore the invitation that comes along with it to that other eternal banquet which will celebrate an eternal harvest. The God Who makes us so pleased with this world’s good things, can He not prepare even greater joys for us in His heavenly kingdom? Of course He can! Let us, therefore, take up His royal invitation.
God's call is non-judgmental: His invitation of grace and promise of eternal fulfilment are for all: He is both supremely generous in His help (after all He gives us His own Son and His Holy Spirit) and mercifully patient as He awaits our faltering response to His repeated invitations and glorious promises. Nevertheless, decisions must finally be made and judgment will eventually come, and for that we must prepare. Therefore, dear People of God, let our lives -- as disciples of Jesus -- resound to and exemplify those words of St. Paul in our second reading:
To our God and Father, be glory forever and ever. Amen.