Well here we are in church on Sunday. We should take a moment to notice that our presence here together is a remarkable thing. Even among us Catholic Christians who are fully initiated into our faith through Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, we who actually practice our religion and make an effort to remain faithful to God are a minority. In our culture, at this point in history, most of our sisters and brothers in Christ who once professed—or had professed on their behalf—the catholic and apostolic faith are no longer with us here at the Sunday Eucharist.
I think at one time or another, each of us who are religiously observant people have asked the question: Why me? How is that other people, even members of our families and those are otherwise dear to us, can be indifferent or even hostile to the presence of God which, though always obscure, is nonetheless somewhat obvious to us? Why do I have the faith which someone else seems to lack?
Is it because God is kinder to us than he is to the others? Certainly not. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims in the first reading we hear today, the salvation God prepares—which the prophet imagines through the wonderful image of the messianic banquet—is a salvation for “all peoples” and “all nations.” God wills and desires the salvation of everyone, and is inviting every heart and soul to his banquet at every moment. But as Jesus says at the end of the Gospel we hear today, though “many are invited, few are chosen.”
Now the parable of the banquet, much like the parable of the tenants in the vineyard we heard from Matthew last week, is meant by the evangelist to be an allegory for the mixed reception Jesus received among his own people. Just like the tenants of the vineyard mistreated or killed those who were sent to them, so in today’s Gospel those invited to the banquet mistreat and kill the representatives of the king. In this we are meant by Matthew to understand the rejection of Jesus by the chief priests and rulers of
For the wedding feast is here and now. This Eucharist that we celebrate is the wedding banquet for the marriage of heaven and earth. As we hear each year in the proclamation at the great Vigil of Easter, “this is the night, when heaven is wedded to earth, and man is reconciled with God.” Why is that we have accepted the invitation to be here and so many of our brother and sister Catholics seem to have rejected it, like those in the Gospel who go off to their own business rather than attending the wedding feast? It’s not because God likes us better. It’s not because we are less sinners than they are. It’s only our good fortune. The particulars of our own personal histories and many other variables made it so that we were able to consent to the grace of God with less distraction than the others.
And for this we must be eternally grateful, literally. Though we haven’t done anything to deserve it, it is our privilege to be the ones who are faithful to God. We ought to rejoice in our presence here at the Sunday Eucharist, grateful that faithfulness to God and the virtue of religion have taken root in our lives and hearts. But this isn’t the end. It is our privilege to be here, but it is also our task to become more and more the Body of Christ we receive here.
In the Gospel the guest who was found without a wedding garment was thrown out of the party. We need not fear this happening to us, because we have received the wedding garment; it was symbolized by the white robe which we wore at our baptism. This baptismal garment will cover us again when we arrive at the door of the church for our funeral and the white pall is placed upon our coffin. But in between the beginning and end of our life of faith on this earth, it is up to us to keep that baptismal garment shining. We must consent to the grace of God working in us so that our baptism bears fruit and the garment of our baptism shines more and more brilliantly, reflecting the goodness and mercy of God to those around us.