In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
A while ago, I started a homily by going back and talking about our New Years resolutions. It was the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos. I mentioned a few things, like “This year I’m going to pray more”, “This year I’m going to go to church more”, “This year I’m going to follow the fasts better”, “This year, I’m going to do better at my job”, “This year, I’m going to be a better employee/boss/manager”, “This year, I’m going to be better at”…you name it, etc…But just when we thought we were going to make a great start,….” But I think I spoke too soon. In addition to COVID, now we have these terrible wildfires that have affected so many. Lord have mercy!
We know Romans 8:28 says: “28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” (Ro 8:28). That’s a good verse for all of us to remember and think about during these difficult times. And sometimes we have to remind ourselves, to love God. Because in the midst of all these difficulties, He loves us. Just as scripture says about death, the “we do not mourn as the world does”, so also in the other difficulties in life that we go through and experience, we do not react as the world does.
Difficulties, unfortunately, are an important part of our salvation. As it says in Acts: “we must go through many afflictions to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Ac 14:22). And speaking of the Kingdom of God, we heard today another parable, about the Kingdom. Today we heard about the wedding feast.
Matthew 22:1-14 (Gospel)
And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
You might think it a bit strange for the king to be so insistent that so many come, even strangers to this wedding feast. But think, whose wedding feast is this? Well, it’s for his son, yes. Obviously we’re talking about Jesus Christ, the Son of God! But, who is the bride? We are, of course! The Church! The whole reason for everything the Lord has done throughout history is right here. He loves mankind, and He invites us to be a member of His family! These people in the parable are not just spectators, but they are the Bride! And those who rejected the invitation in the parable, the Jewish people, from Moses, through the prophets, up through Jesus’s time.
Sadly, in the parable, the King loses patience. After all, how many of His own servants had been beaten and killed? Eventually, the time comes for the Lord to do something. And in this Gospel, the fathers say the Lord is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred about 40 years later. Even then, the Lord was slow to act, waiting 40 years after Jesus had been crucified for their repentance. Even though, He knew that repentance wouldn’t come!
Out of love the King sends His servants out to bring in more people, even out “into the highways”, bringing in the “bad and the good”. Everyone is welcome. To me that sounds very encouraging! But there was one person, one “guest” who did not have on a wedding garment. Traditionally at these weddings, the guests were provided a wedding garment by the host. This would have meant this guest rejected or declined the garment he was offered. And this left the king “speechless”. This garment is interpreted by the fathers as the baptismal robe. The garment which shows we’ve been united to the Bride. And without this garment, which is also an indication of our faith in Christ, the man was cast out.
This again shows how important our faith in God is. He is here for us, ready to help us and to save us. But it is a “two way street” as we say. As we heard in one of our Gospel readings for the Cross today, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up”, (John 3:14) Remember in the Old Testament, after yet another instance of disobedience and idolatry on the part of the Israelites, the Lord allowed poisonous snakes to come and bite the people. And Moses, after pleading with the Lord for mercy, was instructed to make a snake out of copper, and attach it to a high pole, and raise it up. And whoever would look upon this cross, that had been formed by the snake on the pole, would be saved and healed.
In Ephesians St. Paul tells us:
11 Therefore, remember that you, formerly Gentiles in the flesh who are called “uncircumcision” by what is called “circumcision” (in the flesh, made by hands)—12 that you used to be separated from Christ. You were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. 14 He is our peace, he who made both [groups to be] one and tore down the wall of separation. 15 He abolished in his flesh the enmity which is the law of commandments with its decrees, so that he might create in himself one new humanity instead of two, making peace. 16 He reconciled both [groups] to God in one body, through the cross, by which he destroyed that enmity. (Eph 2:11–16).
We are reconciled through the cross, by Christ Himself. And we His people, as we go through difficulties, need to remind ourselves, that we must always bear our cross, in emulation of Christ. To pick up our cross, and follow Him, this is our means to salvation. And again, a quote from Romans: “31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Ro 8:31). And here is another couple of verses, which would be good to keep in our minds: “35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Even as it is written:
For your sake we are killed all day long.
We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 Indeed, I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro 8:35–39).
And finally, back to the Gospel of John, after Christ reminds us of the serpent lifted up by Moses, continuing in verse 15 and 16 He tells us why: “15 so that everyone believing in him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 Indeed, God so loved the world that he gave his uniquely-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:15–16).
Take heart brothers and sisters, and continue to bear your crosses in faith. Because we are given the great and holy privilege to be members of the Bride herself, not just spectators at a wedding.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. Glory to Jesus Christ!