“On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich foods and choice wines, juicy, rich foods and pure, choice wines.” Isaiah 25:6-10.
Our concerns this morning are for the many who have been affected by the fires in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake counties, here in Northern California, and across the state. Our prayers are with families and friends, those who have lost lives, and those who are valiantly struggling to fight these firestorms.
All three of our readings today comment on the abiding invitation of a God who summons us to his “invisible kingdom of the heart.”
In today’s parable story from Matthew, once we’re invited, there’s the added element of figuring out what to wear; an issue in his day, as well as ours.
Just think of the countless people figuring out what to wear for Halloween.
Checking the Internet, I found the most popular selections for 2017 are:
- “Pennywise,” the clown from the movie “It;”
- The kids from the Netflix series “Stranger Things;”
- Belle, from “Beauty & the Beast;”
- In the animal category, a giraffe;
- And of course, there’s always “Wonder Woman.”
With these identities in mind, once a year we dress in these costumes because they may convey what’s on our mind at a particular moment.
Of course, Matthew’s story concludes with the comment that “many are called and few chosen.” So, in effect don’t waste this valuable invitation.
Nonetheless, this is a very puzzling line, and maybe the hardest parable to interpret among the 17 or so stories in Matthew’s gospel.
Luke’s gospel tells a similar parable story but lets us in on why those invited cannot attend: “I bought a piece of land, and must go inspect it.” And, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out.” And, “I cannot come, I have just got married.”
These are perfect excuses for not attending the big dinner party, and, in two of three cases, they added the courteous line: “Please accept my apologies.”
Not so much in Matthew’s account. People on the A-list, those originally invited did not deserve to come; and then, the man who did attend but not properly dressed was “reduced to silence.”
At which, the king ordered his attendants, “Bind his hand and feet, cast him into the darkness.” And said: “Many are invited, but few chosen.” Again, this is a bold and puzzling line, and one of the more difficult statements to interpret in the gospel.
Here are two possible considerations.
First, you cannot bend reality to your liking. Even though, we can dress up as “Wonder Woman,” deep down inside we are not the characters from a movie or an action hero comic book. We are too human and often vulnerable and must be attentive to God’s generous invitation, on his terms, not ours.
Second, it’s a time for saints and heroes. One of the early traditions of the Church reminds us that children once dressed up on Halloween in costumes that depicted the memory of saints. After all, “All Saints Day” is the feast day that follows Halloween.
The custom was to put on Christ as you would put on a new suit or dress – and to take the blessed actions of women and men whose lives we admire and make their actions of faith, hope and love – our own.
In his letter to the Colossians (3:12), Saint Paul reminds us:
“Put on, then, garments that suit God’s chosen and beloved people: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgiving, if you have any cause for complaint: you must forgive as the Lord forgave you. Finally, to bind everything together, and complete the whole, there must be love.”
Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.
With the extraordinary production of the Broadway Musical “Little Women,” by Santa Catalina Theatre Arts, it’s worth noting the deeply spiritual way in which Louisa May Alcott reached out to “the hearts of her readers.”
Author Susan Bailey provides a wonderful insight into the life and work of Alcott; and here is Bailey’s blog “Louisa May Alcott is My Passion.” Please listen to the podcast and brief talk by Susan Bailey; so worth a listen, and complements today’s homily.