The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A - 9th October 2011


There are some things that, as a priest, I have come to dislike very much.  I dislike constant meetings; I find it a challenge to be pleasant to people all the time; and wedding planners, I really hate wedding planners.

However, there are times when even I have to accept the advantage of having a wedding planner.  Today's gospel passage is one of those.  I mean, invitations to the wedding really need to be sent out well in advance.  This king only sends out the invitations after the meal has been cooked and the room has been prepared.  Even the worst wedding planner would have got that one right.  You could hardly blame those who would not come to the wedding; those who had something more important to do; I'm not sure I would like to go to a banquet which had been sitting on a table for several hours and would now be cold.

Next, he sends more invitations but the messengers are beaten or even killed.  This is extreme, and every good wedding planner knows that to avoid people being killed it is normally sufficient to include R.S.V.P. and a phone number on the invitation card.  All this time the meal is on the table.

Because he is annoyed with those who could not come to the wedding the king sets out with his army and attacks the city of those who would not come.  In terms of time management, even the most confused of wedding planners would raise an eyebrow at this stage.  To raise an army, set out, destroy those murderers and burn their city is not the way to ensure that your special day goes smoothly.  In fact, we are now into at least several months.

Still not happy the king decides to invite all those who just happen to be hanging around.  At least this way the hall will be filled and the meal - which has been sitting on the table all this time - can finally be eaten.

At last, to the great relief of the wedding planner, the king enters the hall to greet his guests.  Immediately he notices a wardrobe malfunction - one of the guests is not wearing a wedding garment.  All hell breaks loose despite the fact that only a short while before this guest was probably just hanging around on a street corner minding his own business - he had no idea he was going to a wedding and now he ends up being thrown out into the darkness with his hands and feet bound.  I reckon that at this stage the wedding planner probably gave up, resigned and took up underwater basket-weaving instead - it may be difficult but at least it's predictable.

But, of course, there was no wedding planner.  In fact, and each of these steps makes it clear, there was in fact no wedding.  Each of these aspects of the tale that we have just listed makes it clear that this is not an account of an actual wedding feast.  There is something else going on here.

This is clearly a parable.  A moral tale which contains an important message.  In this case it is a moral tale about the Kingdom of God.  There are those who are not interested; there are those who are against it; there are those who are not worthy of it.

Those who are indifferent are treated with indifference.  Those who are hostile are treated with hostility.  This is straightforward.  However, when we get to the one who is not worthy (the one with no wedding garment), things are a little less clear.  The key to understanding this part of the parable is going to be the meaning we attach to the wedding garment.

St. Augustine says that the wedding garment represents justice.  This is one of the key gospel values and it would seem that the garment must have something to do with those values.  However, it seems to me that to identify the garment with justice is, at the same time, to distinguish it from other gospel values.

My own sense of what the wedding garment might signify has to do with the nature of garments in general.  Garments are things we put on and take off.  They are external to us and they change.  While our garments may be familiar to those around us we are not really known (by those who really know us) by our garments.

The way that I see it, the wedding garment in the parable has to be something that preserves our integrity as persons.  Justice, Truth, Purity (in fact all the values contained in the Beatitudes which are so important in Matthew's gospel) are certainly important values for anyone who wants to follow Jesus.  However, it seems unlikely that any follower of Jesus will be able to embody any of these virtues perfectly.

I think the wedding garment in the story represents sincerity.  Not the sugar candied sincerity we find on Hallmark cards but the honest, humble, open sincerity in which I do not need to hide.  The type of sincerity which allows all of me to shine even when parts of me stand out because of their shadows.  The sincerity of being human.  The sincerity which allows me to remove the mask from my face as I stand before God - and, as a result fo having removed the mask, this becomes the sincerity that allows God in.

The message in today's gospel, as I see it, is the call to be who we are.  We are invited to the feast as ourselves.  We are not invited because we are mostly just, often truthful and more or less pure.  God loves us as we are.  God never makes rubbish and each of us has a purpose in a greater plan.  We sometimes apologise for our failures by saying that we are "only human" as if it were a terrible thing to be human.  The truth is that it is in being human that we find ourselves as images of God.  Being human is our greatest attribute.  But being human is also about striving to balance contradictions such as being both pure and impure; it is about including opposites like good and bad; it is about struggling forward despite our inconsistencies such as being truthful only sometimes.

God made you; God shared you with others; God continues to love you.

Possidius




Article posted on 9th of October 2011

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