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Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 9, 2011 (28A)
By Father Cusick
Christ reveals his love and mercy in all that he says and does. All of his teaching reveals the saving love of God. So with the parables. These stories of the kingdom reveal the outpouring of God's desire to embrace us in Jesus Christ. God is love. His love and mercy are fully revealed to us in Christ. We meet and know Christ in the truth, handed down to us in the Tradition and the Scriptures. The work of the Church in every age is to proclaim the saving truth, that all mankind may be saved.
Our understanding is marred by the effects of original sin. Our idea of love must be purified, corrected and raised up by Christ in His Cross and Resurrection. Our ability to return God's love is crippled by the sinful ways we twist love to our small, petty or selfish purposes. Hence, God's ministry of love in Jesus Christ is the preaching of the truth in love. This is the ministry of the Church, and of all priests who share in the one priesthood of Christ.
In the parable of the marriage feast Christ taught the chief priests and elders that in Him the Father invites them to the banquet of eternal life. They, and all of the Chosen People, are the invited guests, many of whom, in rejecting Christ, refuse to come. In murdering the prophets and teachers who preceded Christ, many rendered themselves "unfit" for the banquet.
In Christ, the abundance of the kingdom of grace and peace, the banquet of God's goodness, is poured forth for all: "...you must go out into the byroads and invite to the wedding anyone you come upon." For God, there is no "A" list or "B" list; all are called to accept adoption as His sons and daughters, and to share the bounty of the wedding hall.
God is love, yes, and He is full of mercy, but His love is demanding. "When the king came in to meet the guests, however, he caught sight of a man not properly dressed for a wedding feast." When questioned why he came in his casual clothes instead of his Sunday best, the man is dumbfounded.
Jesus desires deeply that all be saved, and so he invites all to the banquet, but He yet preserves our freedom to reject Him. This is a great mystery, but the answer lies in God's love. True love preserves the freedom of the one loved, to either respond with authentic, free, Godly love, or to reject But why did the king tell this one man he was improperly dressed? Why did he speak such harsh words: "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth"?
"The marriage", says St. Gregory the Great "is the wedding of Christ and His Church, and the garment is the virtue of charity: a person who goes into the feast without a wedding garment is someone who believes in the Church but does not have charity." Accepting the invitation means not only entering the banquet hall, the Church. One must be properly attired in the wedding garment of Christ's grace, the charity in which we must persevere as we engage in worship, in work, in recreation, in service. The sincere response, the "yes" of an interior life of charity, is reflected in external acts of charity toward God and neighbor.
"Many are called." God's saving love embraces all of creation.
"Few are chosen." The "final judgment" is nothing more than that moment when our choice to love God is sealed by His eternal embrace of love in heaven, or when we face the consequences of our rejection of God's love by refusing to keep the commandments. Jesus teaches us, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Our cheapened, easy "love" often forgets that the currency of authentic love is a generous dying to self and obedience to another.
The man or woman clothed with an obedient charity, sincerely calling upon Christ as Lord and Master, possesses peace and joy, the fruits of authentic Christian life. "The practice of the moral life animated by Charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who "first loved us":
If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages,...we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands...we are in the position of children. St. Basil (CCC 1828)
Peace is in keeping the whole message of Christ. Let us cast off "deeds of darkness" and selfishness, and clothe ourselves in generous charity toward God and neighbor. Peace and joy are the fruit of obedience.