Homily for October 12

Lady Justice and the Angel of Mercy: Source

Homily for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

When it arrives, it’s addressed to you in carefully scripted calligraphy.
The envelope is thick with contents: an inside envelope;
an embossed invitation; a thin slip-sheet to protect the printing;  
a small pre-addressed, pre-stamped return envelope; 
and a reply card on which you can RSVP your acceptance or regrets 
and indicate your preference for beef or fish or vegan.
You’ve been invited to a wedding!
Your response might be, “Wonderful!”
Or you might be more like those first folks in the gospel today,
“Oh, no – not another wedding!”

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith are requesting the honor of your presence
not just for a ceremony
but very likely for the better part of a weekend
on your already crowded calendar.
You’ll be expected to buy a nice gift or to write a nice check.
You  may feel you need to buy new clothes to wear to the wedding.
Travel (and its expenses) may be involved.

Wedding invitations come with certain expectations:
they interrupt our lives and make demands on us.
And they require a response.

In the parable of the wedding banquet here,
Jesus is teaching the religious leaders of his day that they,
who assume they’d be among the invited,
might indeed be replaced
by a guest list of some pretty unlikely characters.
It’s not enough to be invited, says Jesus
– you must accept the invitation 
and the demands it makes on your life.
As he does so often, Jesus shows us here
how narrow can be our concept of salvation, and,
how wide is the sweep, the reach of God’s mercy,
opening his arms wide to welcome all to his embrace.

If you’ve been following Catholic Church news these last several weeks
then you know there’s a Synod of Bishops going on in Rome.
This meeting is intended to study
“the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization,”
how the Church reaches out to 
and ministers to families in today’s world.
When you consider all the permutations
of what’s understood as “family” today,
you can see that the Synod has its work cut out for it –
especially considering the Church’s rules and regulations
concerning marriage and family life.

I’m not anticipating any huge changes in church doctrine
but there is already, under the leadership of Pope Francis,
a change approach, in vocabulary and in tone of speech
when addressing these concerns
and especially the people in whose lives these concerns play out.

What we might possibly anticipate are changes in pastoral practice,
changes in how the Church ministers in some difficult situations.

This past week the news of the Synod has focused largely on questions
of who’s invited to receive Communion and who’s not -
Who’s invited to the banquet – and who isn’t?
– particularly with regard to one’s marital status
and questions of divorce and remarriage and annulments.

Some are arguing that a broader invitation to Communion
is the merciful approach, “what Jesus would do,”
and the path that provides everyone a just share.
Others argue that the greatest justice the Church can offer people
is to make the law crystal clear - and hold people to it -
lest they be led into sin by a false sense of mercy.

But mercy and justice are not mutually exclusive:
they are, indeed, complementary and depend on each other.

The parable in the gospel here is instructive.
Note that those properly invited to the banquet
end up being the very ones judged unworthy of entrance
- and how they are replaced with precisely the folks
who presumed they’d been excluded from the table.

It’s important to keep in mind that this is a parable.
It’s not the 10 commandments, not canon law
and not the whole answer 
to every particular, vexing question in Church life.
It is a story, a parable and it’s about
 -God’s legitimate expectations of those invited to his table
- and God’s merciful welcome to “good and bad alike.”

Justice and mercy are complementary – not mutually exclusive.
The parable argues neither for blind justice nor for lawless mercy.

Thus, the fate of the poor chap who shows up 
without a suit coat and tie!
The missing wedding garment is, of course, an allegorical element:
even those who were unexpectedly invited
are expected to follow the demands
that their invitation lays on the conduct of their lives.
Well, by all appearances, you and I are the kind of folks
who would have been on the A list of the king’s invitations.
We would have been the ones first invited.

There are then two questions for us to consider.
- Do we let God’s invitation interrupt our lives with its demands
or are we inclined to blow off the invitation
when its demands become too burdensome.
- Will we be surprised, you and I, should we come to find
that others whom we judged unworthy of a place at the table
are invited to take our seats,
provided that they take on the demands 
the invitation lays on their lives?

In the parable in the gospel,
Jesus is the son to whose feast we are invited
and WE are the unnamed bride: his spouse, his people, the Church. 
Thus the invitation is not just to the wedding, to the banquet,
but an invitation to an intimate relationship with one who invites us.

If we ignore this invitation to intimacy with God,
or worse, if we take it for granted,
then we ignore the greatest relationship
we as human beings might ever have - bar none.  

Nothing offered us in this life is greater
than the intimacy God desires to have with each of us.  
Nothing offered us in this life can more easily enhance and deepen
all our human relationships  more beautifully
than our acceptance of God's invitation to friendship.

In a few moments we’ll approach the table
of the Lord’s wedding supper which the king has prepared for his son
and for us, the Church, his bride.

The invitation to intimacy here is clear:
the rich food offered us is the very Body of Jesus;
the choice wine poured out for us is his very Blood.
We are invited to consume him, to receive him into our own bodies.
He wants to be one with us.  

Pray that we’ll accept this invitation
and all that it offers and all that it asks of us.


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