Father MIKAEL SCHINK S.J.
Sermon for the 28th Sunday in ordinary time (A)
2020-10-11, St. Eugenia Catholic Church
+ Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
God has given us the freedom to choose. Our lives are not pre-determined. We are free to order our lives in the way we wish. Especially in our part of the world, there is almost an endless amount of possibilities for each one of us. It is true that some people have impediments of physical, psychological or other sorts, but most people have the physical and psychological capacity to make a choice about their life.
God does however not only offer us the possibility to choose how our life should look in this world but also in the next. God has given us the possibility to choose not only our destiny in this life but also our eternal destiny. This is really the purpose of our lives here on earth. If we take a look in the old Baltimore Catechism that Catholic children and youths of earlier generations had to learn by heart, we find the question “Why did God make you?” The answer is that “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”
The meaning of life that so many people are seeking is already known by us Catholics. It is to serve God in this world and to be happy with him in the next. The question is of course what this means for me concretely, what my vocation in this life is – whether I am called to be a priest or religious or to marry and start a family – but that this life is a means for me to go to heaven is already given.
We hear about God’s calling in today’s Gospel. He invites us to his wedding feast, and we are supposed to say yes to his invitation and join him. Strangely enough, the guests do not want to come. They were not interested: one went off to his farm, the other to his business.
We might think that it is strange, but it is a very real possibility to say no to God. God has given us the freedom to say yes to him, but also to resist grace and say no to eternal life with him in heaven. It is not difficult to say yes to God, but nor is it difficult to say no to God by committing a mortal sin.
And although it might seem strange that the guests in Jesus’s parable turn down the king’s invitation to come to the wedding feast, it is not a very uncommon thing in the world around us nor in salvation history.
Jesus’s parable is in a sense a summation of salvation history. We know all too well that the people of Israel sinned time and again. In the book of Deuteronomy, we read: “While I am yet living, and going in with you, you have always been rebellious against the Lord” (Deut. 31:27).
But the pattern is much the same today. All are invited to the wedding feast of the lamb, but most of the churches in Sweden are empty, not because of Covid-19 but because people usually do not go to church, and we know also that only about 10% of Catholics go to mass on a usual Sunday, again not considering the current pandemic.
As in the parable, the lives of many people are taken up by worldly cares. Perhaps they do not go to their farm but there are many more exciting things to do than to go to church, and there are certainly many more entertaining things to do than to pray or to read spiritual books.
It is a well-known rule of the spiritual life that a certain calm and a certain ascetism is necessary to be able to pray. It is not a coincidence that the monks and nuns of former times and also of today seek the solitude of the wilderness. So also we who still live in the middle of the world have to find not only times of stillness but a general stillness in our lives, so that we can dispose ourselves for God and open ourselves up for him.
But what about the man at the wedding feast who does not have a white robe? What does the robe signify? The fathers answered this question in different ways. They said that it signified a good life, grace or charity. Saint Thomas Aquinas in his commentary asks the same question: “What is this garment?” But he gives a much simpler and more concentrated answer that includes everything else. He answers “Christ!” (In Matt. 1770).
We who are Christ’s, let us put on Christ! The Apostle Paul says: put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13:14). For some put on Christ through the sacrament of baptism; some are in Christ through charity and love; some through the conformity of their lives and works to Christ. Therefore, to have a wedding garment is to put on Christ through good works, through a holy life and through true charity. (ibid.)
Saint Thomas’s answer that the garment signifies Christ himself fits very well with context in the parable, since the arrival of the king is usually interpreted as an image for the judgment, either the particular judgment immediately after death or the last or general judgment at the end of time. Therefore, we will be judged only according how well we have accepted Christ into our lives, how well we have put on Christ.
In this way the marriage feast is an image of the soul’s union with Christ through faith and charity. We are invited to put on Christ and to become spiritually united with him through grace that is given to us through the sacraments.
Let us therefore turn to Christ and thank him for the invitation to his marriage feast. Let us pray for the strength to persevere in the life of grace so that when we meet him face to face at the hour of our death, he may find us wearing the wedding garment of his charity and love, so that we can become united with him also in his glory. + Amen.