Sunday Homily - Fr Paul Rowse, OP
15th October 2023
Not everything we’ve just heard in our Gospel reading is about the chief priests and the elders. We must hear and heed especially that part which is directed towards us, so that the Kingdom which has become ours is indeed ours.
We’re dealing with the parable within a parable. The business of the wedding garment comes at the end of the parable about the reception snub. Some scholars think that the Lord told the two parables separately and that they’ve been stitched together. We can see why they might think that: they’re both about guests at a wedding. The reason why we might think differently is because this is the last parable about Jesus’ acceptance or rejection. After this, he’ll start speaking more plainly about the ways of the kingdom; there’ll be a few more parables but they’re about judgment. The Lord is turning his attention now towards those who have indeed accepted him.
So, we’re very familiar with official Israel’s rejection of Jesus as the Christ: they are the fruitless fig tree, the agreeable but disobedient son, and the murderous tenants. Now too they are the rude guests. Taken together, we have quite a deal of animosity to observe between the chief priests and Jesus. Sometimes the Lord uses warm and encouraging language; here in the Temple, he uses cold and accusing language. None of it has worked; they will be against him until the bitter end.
But, as we make our way through these magnificent illustrations, what’s new to our ears is how there is an expectation of those who accept Christ. That expectation is imaged in our parable as the wedding garment. We won’t get hung up on the customs of the ancients; we’ll simply note the expectation. It’s not enough that someone has accepted the invitation; they need a special garment to be part of the celebration. It’s not enough to accept Christ; we need to be accepting of him outwardly as well.
There are many proposals for what the wedding garment might symbolise. You could just about take any positive-sounding abstract noun and that will do: love, peace, goodness, kindness, compassion. If that works for you, that’s grand: there will be a set of actions that will accompany each one. If the garment is love, then you’ll speak well and truthfully, be affectionate and trusting. We do need to be specific about those actions. We might be letting ourselves off the hook if we claim peacefulness for ourselves but argue at home, gossip with neighbours, and condemn people in our minds.
So, do drill down in your quiet reflective time on how your actions will match your Christian identity. To make that easier, you might ask yourself about that part of yourself which you leave at the door. Why can’t that be brought inside? Shouldn’t it change outside too?
Given the significance of yesterday’s referendum and what the result means to different people, I have another suggestion for you about the wedding garment. This is the Seat of Kooyong, with one of the highest votes for Yes to the Voice to Parliament. Many of you have brought disappointment with you to Mass this morning: it’s all over some of your faces. I make no comment from the pulpit about the referendum’s content or outcome; I’m equally concerned for every one of you, whether you are from a first nation or a more recently arrived one.
There is scope today for seeing the wedding garment as joy: there is spiritual joy at being Christ’s and being with Christ. There’s no need to force oneself to be happy; that’s not joy. What we will do together, however we happened to vote, is celebrate today as our weekly Easter. Christ died and rose from the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
This being the fifteenth of October, ordinarily we would be celebrating the feast of St Teresa of Avila, a great Carmelite spiritual authoress and religious reformer. Today we can make her words our own:
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass away.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.
Fr Paul Rowse, OP | Parish Priest