10-12 October 2014
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
All of us have at some time participated in a wedding feast. In all cultures, societies and religions, a marriage between a man and a woman is always accompanied by festive celebrations, symbolic ceremonies and at times unending banquets. The bride and groom invite their family, relatives and friends to share in their love and joy by participating in their wedding ceremony and the banquet which is always celebrated with music and dancing.
God’s invitation to joy. The parable we heard today reminds us that the invitation of God is to a feast as joyous as a wedding banquet. Our salvation starts with an invitation, not with an obligation or a duty. The Lord’s invitation is to joy. It is the joy of knowing that God loves us and considers us his friends and special guests. It is a joy in which we discover that even though we are unworthy, God still wants to share his joy with us, the same way a bride and groom share the joy of their love with those closest to them. Our Christian faith can never be seen as a gloomy task asking us to give up everything in order to achieve happiness, neither as a heavy burden which we are to carry throughout our lives in order to obtain a place in heaven. Our relationship to God should never be considered a duty but rather a desire, the deepest aspiration of our souls, which is the longing for happiness and peace. This is the joy of the Gospels, the joy of new life, in which we live our lives to the fullest in humility and gratitude towards God who loved us first and who is constantly inviting us to share in his love. It is to joy that the Christian is invited and it is joy he misses, if he refuses the invitation.
Living and working. Jesus explains that men can unfortunately become deaf to the invitation of God. The first to be invited refused and went about with other activities which were not necessarily bad in themselves. One man went to his estate while the other to his business. They did not go off on a wild trips or an immoral adventure. They went off on the noble task of efficiently administering their business life. It is very easy for a man to be so busy with the things of time that he forgets the things of eternity; to be so preoccupied with the things which are seen that he forgets the things which are unseen; to hear so insistently the claims of the world that he cannot hear the soft invitation of the voice of Christ. The tragedy of life is that it is so often the second bests which shut out the bests, things which are good in themselves that can shut out the things that are supreme. A man can be so busy making a living that he fails to make a life. He can be so busy with the administration and the organization of life that he forgets life itself. It is so unfortunate that in our modern way of living so few couples and families have time for meals together and are preoccupied with material things instead of having time for joyful moments together.
Missing a great opportunity. The parable also reminds us that the appeal of Christ is not so much to consider how we will be punished as it is to see what we will miss, if we do not accept his invitation. Those who would not come were punished, but their real tragedy was that they lost the joy of the wedding feast. If we refuse the invitation of Christ, some day our greatest pain will lie, not in the things we suffer, but in the realization of the precious things we have missed.
In the last analysis God’s invitation is the invitation of grace. Those who were gathered in from the highways and the byways had no claim on the king. They could never have expected an invitation to the wedding feast, still less could they ever have deserved it. It came to them from nothing other than the open-armed generous hospitality of the king. It was grace which offered the invitation and grace which gathered men in.
Being clothed in Christ. It is also undoubtedly true that the door is open to all men, when they come they must bring a life which seeks to fit the love which has been given to them. This is the meaning behind the need to be wearing the proper wedding garment. Grace is not only a gift, it is a grave responsibility. A man cannot go on living the life he lived before he met Jesus Christ. He must be clothed in a new purity and a new holiness and become a new man. The door is open, but the door is not open for the sinner to come and remain a sinner, but for the sinner to accept the challenge of becoming a saint. The wedding garment that must be worn in order not to miss out on life is Jesus Christ himself. At our baptism we were given along with our white garment the task of living and sharing life to the fullest and to be constantly clothed in Christ.
There are garments of the mind and of the heart and of the soul: the garment of expectation, of humble penitence, of faith and of reverence. These are the garments without which we should never approach God. Too often we go to God’s house with no preparation at all, yet all the while expecting the Lord to answer each and every one of our needs. If every man and woman came to church prepared to listen to God speaking to us through his word, to offer a little prayer, some deep thought and a bit of self-examination, thereby emptying our hearts and minds of all selfish, sinful and harmful thoughts and desires, in order to receive Christ the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, then our prayer would be worship indeed. This is the worship that leads to true joy, the joy of experiencing God’s presence in our lives that provides lasting happiness, comparable to an unending wedding banquet where we are the Lord’s special guests.