Homily, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Are you wearing the right robe?
I've always had difficulty with today's Gospel. On the one hand, we have a wonderful sense of the generosity of God as represented by the king: He couldn't get anyone to come to the wedding of his son, so he invited anyone and everyone. We always speak of inclusivity, and welcoming - well, here it is. I'm reminded of an incident last week at the Catholic Centre in St. Catharines (basically our head office). We had a retirement luncheon for one of our staff members. There is a fellow who is experiencing homelessness who sometimes camps out at our Catholic Centre. Well, bishop Bergie in his kindness invited him to our luncheon. It was perfect - here we were, with all our nice clothes and good food sitting with a gentleman who did, in fact, look rather dishevelled. But is this not the very core of our Gospel message? He who welcomes you welcomes me?
But then suddenly the Gospel changes. Seeing someone "without the proper wedding garment," he was kicked out of the wedding feast, and in a rather extreme way - to the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. What Gives?
This troubled me my whole life until this morning when I remembered a time when I was kicked out of a celebration for not wearing a wedding garment. The year was 1992, and I was volunteering with St. Mother Teresa's sisters in Calcutta. One of our tasks was to clean residents as soon as they arrived - and it was not an easy task. I remember one fellow they brought in, I was shaving his head (because of lice) right into my coffee break! I was annoyed, so when I finally finished I thought to myself "I'll clean up later."
Oops. When I came back, there was the supervisor, Sr. Bella, arms crossed, tapping her foot, mean look on her face. "If you to work here, you need to be way more generous. You need to give from your heart. If you're just here to satisfy your own ego (ouch), then just go home (ouch ouch)." I was crushed. But, I was also being kicked out of a celebration of grace and love (which was actually the work we were trying to do) because... I didn't have the right wedding robe.
The robe that I'm referring to is the robe of love.
So I was crushed. With my tail between my legs, I went back to work the next day, Sr. Bella wasn't there, so I asked Sr. Christina, maybe for the first time in my life: "What can I do to help." Her answer? "All you have to do is love him."
The robe she was referring to is the robe of love.
"I wonder what his name is," I asked. "His name is Jesus, because whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me."
When that person joined the wedding party without the proper wedding garment, he came for the wrong reason. What is the symbol here? What is the wedding party? I would suggest two things.
First of all, it’s Sunday Mass, it’s our worship here, it's our parish community. We are not just spectators, the Church asks us for full, active participation - to build up this community. If we don’t, we’re not going to be able to enjoy what this has to offer. We are not here to have our needs met, we are here to meet the needs of those around us. We are here to serve others, this is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. If you only want your own needs met, then be somewhere else, you will not be fulfilled here. Why? Because it is in giving that we receive.
Secondly, the feast is life itself. If you want to find meaning in life, you have to come to the table ready with the right attitudes, and the right dispositions. What are those right dispositions? Come with arms ready to serve and a heart ready to love.
This is what it means to be wearing the right robe. "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,' St. Paul writes in Colossians 3,
"clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.