I was talking with my nieceâ€”Kateâ€”last week and she told me that she was selected to participate in New Hampshireâ€™s Republican Debate next month and to ask a question of the U.S. presidential hopefuls. Of course the next excitable statement out of her mouth was, â€œIâ€™ve got to get a new dress, but I donâ€™t know what color! …Mom and I have to go to Boston or NYC to go shoppingâ€¦â€ Of course, I suggested she wear what she wore last weekend to Mass. â€œIâ€™m sure that would be grandâ€, I saidâ€¦to which she replied, â€œUghh, stop it, Uncle Dave!â€
Clearly Kate realized and valued the importance of the upcoming meeting. She wanted to put her best foot forward, to respectfully acknowledge the importance of the event, and to be accepted as someone who could be taken seriously.
This isnâ€™t something foreign to any of us, is it?
â€¢ When we were teens or even young adults, we dreamed of dating that someone specialâ€¦and when miraculously the first date was accepted or set, each one of us primped and preened.
â€¢ When we applied for college, we were scared to death that we wouldnâ€™t get accepted, so we did everything we could to build up that rÃ©sumÃ© and application and get the best character references possible.
â€¢ When we sought after our firstâ€”or, for that matter, anyâ€”job, we nervously and anxiously hoped & hoped that weâ€™d be called for an interview. And if it happened, weâ€™d be sure to present our best, so that our potential employer couldnâ€™t refuse to make us an offer!
â€¢ And when, for example, we applied for a first-time home buyersâ€™ loan or applied to a Co-Op Board for acceptance into a new housing community, we prayed we wouldnâ€™t be turned downâ€¦ we wanted to be sure all our ducksâ€”and good letters of recommendationâ€”were in order.
Yes, when we present ourselves to something or someone important, we are always sure to present our very best, arenâ€™t we?
And so, when the prophet Isaiah announces (from our first reading) that â€œthe LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feastâ€, thereâ€™s no greater high-presence that we could enter; no loftier banquet for us to engage in; no more powerful court to be accepted into. This banquet of the Lord is surely the greatest feast we could ever enjoy! And whatâ€™s even more impressive and glorious is that such a feast is not only provided for a few, but â€œâ€¦for all peoplesâ€! We wonâ€™t have to be afraid of getting snubbed by a short invitation list; we donâ€™t have to worry that only the powerful or wealthy or best-connected will be thereâ€¦weâ€™re also invited. Thereâ€™s no hierarchy or order to the invited listâ€¦each one of us can sit at the head of the table as well as the foot!
Now, I know what youâ€™re thinking: it canâ€™t be true. And our gospel is probably coming to mind: the story of the improperly dressed attendee and how he is treated by the host king. It appears that only a certain few, well-dressed attendees will be welcome to the Lordâ€™s banquet.
Not so, and the reason lies within two issues: first, that we accept His invitation is important; but second, how we accept His invitation is just as important. The Gospel parable illustrates these two necessary, intersecting points by using the image of a wedding feast and proper attire. But remember, this is a parableâ€¦a story that points to a deeper reality that must be discerned and interpretedâ€¦our own particular situations applied then to a global, universal truth, such as â€œthe Kingdom of Godâ€ and â€œthe heavenly banquetâ€.
For example, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, God invites all people to taste His great love, yes? And as we participate in this great liturgy, God increases our desire and readiness for the heavenly banquet that is to come. How will we respond to the Lordâ€™s invitation to the wedding banquet of His Son? Will we be too preoccupied with worldly affairs to accept it humbly? Or will we respond with hearts overflowing with love and gratitude for the Lordâ€™s gift of refreshment and the opportunity to dwell in His house forever?
Jesus said, â€œMany are called, but few are chosenâ€. The king rejected the improperly dressed man because he did not regard his invitation as a great honor. He did not clothe himself with â€œthe new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holinessâ€. The guests who were dressed in wedding garments recognized Godâ€™s abundant mercy and love as their only source of strength and hope, so they â€œclothedâ€ themselves with this mercy.
Let us embrace Godâ€™s gift of love and grace in this Eucharist, and let us hear His invitation with humble, prayerful hearts and minds and voices.
By doing so, God will enable us to accept wholeheartedly His invitation to join in the celebration of the wedding feast of the lamb.
God love you always.