The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face;
I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
I can do all things in him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)
The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. . . .
There are about 77 days left until Christmas. I am reminded of this not because the secular world has already started its Christmas selling frenzy; they are still too concerned with ghosts and goblins. Rather, in the last few weeks our Scripture readings at Mass are about the end times. We have been hearing a lot of parables about working in the vineyard.
Last week, we heard in the Gospel, about the tenants who failed to produce a harvest for the Lord. And the question, “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?" They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death.”
As you may know, the Church’s liturgical year begins with the First Sunday of Advent and is only about 48 days away. The first Sunday of Advent will also be the day on which we begin using the new translation of the Mass. The last Sunday of Ordinary Time is Christ the King Sunday. As we approach that great solemnity of Christ the King, the Church asks us to meditate upon Judgment Day. We say in the Creed every Sunday, “That Christ will come to judge the living and the dead.”
As St. John Vianney said, “Our home is in heaven, on earth, we are like travelers staying in a hotel. When one is away, one is always thinking of going home.” On the day we die, the Lord will come to us and ask us how we have tended His vineyard here on earth. “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"
We hear in this week’s Gospel, the parable of the wedding feast. We hear of those who, though invited, refuse to come to the feast and we hear how everyone, whomever the servant finds are invited. But though many are invited, few are chosen. We cannot presume that since God loves each of us with unbounded love, it does not matter what we do with our lives. We must conform our lives to God’s standards rather than to our own standards or the standards of the government. If we come to the feast not wearing the wedding garment which God has asked us to wear, we shall be bound hand and foot, and cast into the darkness.
The early 20th century English author, G. K. Chesterton has written,
“We have all heard people say a hundred times over, for they seem never to tire of saying it, that the Jesus of the New Testament is indeed a most merciful and humane lover of humanity, but that the Church has bidden this human character in repellent dogmas and stiffened it with ecclesiastical terrors till it has taken on an inhuman character. This is, I venture to repeat, very nearly the reverse of the truth. The truth is, that it is the image of Christ in the churches, that is almost entirely mild and merciful. It is the image of Christ in the Gospels that is a good many other things as well. The figure in the Gospels does indeed utter in words of almost heartbreaking beauty, his pity for our broken hearts. But they are very far from being the only sort of words that he utters.”
We all love to hear the Jesus speak the beatitudes, "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.” But in the next few verse Jesus also says, “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”
When we come before the Lord, will we be wearing His wedding garment of righteousness or the will be clothed in our own self-will. One of the beauties of the new translation of the Mass is that we are no longer asking God to do our will. We no longer tell God to “do this” or “give us that” rather the new language has us humbly begging God to hear our prayers.
Now is the time to choose whether we will come to the wedding feast and whether we will wear the wedding garment. Are we dressed for the feast, clothed in the garment of righteousness (see Revelation 19:8)? Not all who have been called will be chosen for eternal life, Jesus warns. Let us be sure that we’re living in a manner worthy of the invitation we’ve received (see Ephesians 4:1).
After our death, we will no longer be able to choose but will have to stand on the decisions we make here on earth. This the meaning of phrase, “bind his hands and his feet.” Once we have been thrown into the darkness outside for refusing to wear the wedding Garment of the Lord, we will not be able to free ourselves from the wailing and grinding of teeth. We are not called to judge who will enter and will be thrown into the darkness. That is the job of the King, our job as servants of the King is “Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike.” Our job is proclamation of the invitation. It is Christ the King who will judge those worthy to enter the feast. So remember, while our life may be compared to an essay test, the final judgment is True or False.
Dr. Scott Hahn
Dr. Scott Hahn
And on the lighter side:
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