There comes a time when that which we used to consider important give way to realities that are REALLY important. This passage is what we call maturity. Many among us—myself included—would think that money is everything, that youth and popularity and beauty and fun are everything. The moment we realize that these isn’t all there is to life is the moment we start to grow up. This morning somebody back home frankly told me that I wasn’t that that important nor intelligent nor good-looking (ouch!!hehehe), and thanks to that, everything that I used to hold important came crashing down in an instant. This led me—and I would like to bring all of you along as well—to the question: what then is important in this life?
This consideration would be helpful in our Sunday reflection. In the First Reading we see the image of the God of Israel calling His people to a feast, a rich banquet of the best wines and good food. But what would be most appealing to the people of Israel was the fact that here suffering ends. The prophet Isaiah addresses the words that we hear in the reading to a people who have suffered much and who seem to see no end to this suffering; in this feast that the Lord is preparing He himself will wipe their tears away. It is the definitive feast of the covenant. Here everything that we thought capable of giving us any real happiness pales in comparison with the love of the Good Shepherd, shown to us by the Responsorial Psalm. What need have we to cling to securities in this life—our youth and apparent beauty (which swiftly passes away), money (that is immediately passes from one hand to another) fame (which lasts for fifteen seconds) and even this life (which we won’t have for long)—if we have before the figure of the Lord who shepherds us and whose love makes us want for nothing? Considering this, there is much sense in wanting to live in the house of the Lord all the days of our life, as the response to the psalm would say.
To live our lives with God, to live in Him and with Him and for Him and as such to want for nothing else: this is at the heart of the readings this Sunday. But the Parable of the Wedding Feast in the Gospel, aside from being the echo of the First Reading, shows us one important thing in accepting this invitation.
“But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment…”
All of us want to be invited to a party, to partake of rich food and drink, to join in the fun and conversation. But we have to be well disposed and prepared. We have to be well dressed. What does it mean to be well dressed? St. John Chrysostom tells us in one of his homilies that this refers to the purity of life that we all need to have in order to partake of this banquet. True, the fact of our being invited was due to God’s grace, and not due to our merits. We have faith in the God, but that is not enough. It is not enough to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior and leave it at that. We need to live corresponding to the grace of God in our life, making our faith in Jesus effective in our good works and in a life that is lived according to the law of God, a good moral life. Chrysostom comments that if “just as those who rejected the invitation to the banquet were punished for their ingratitude, so will you be punished for having sat down at table with a corrupt life”. We need to be converted by God’s grace, we need to live good moral lives, and more than that, we need to be holy, yes, holy! Being good Christians is not enough; faith in the Gospel demands from us the same holiness that causes people to get canonized, as saints of the altar.
Holiness may seem to be waaaaay over our heads, a standard to high for us to reach. It is a high standard, yes of course; but it is never way above our heads.
“God will always supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”
The Lord has always promised us eternal life with him in heaven, but at the same time he has promised us the means to get there: the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance, which enrich our faith and life in God and strengthen us in our struggle to live a life in love with the Lord, enabling us to cry out with the Apostle Paul as we have heard him in the Second Reading, from the letter to the Philippians: I can do all things in HIM who strengthens me!.
So returning to the question as to what is important in life, there are people who as they advance in years gradually see the meaning of life and grasp what really matters, and this precisely is to live a life in God, through Jesus Christ: “for to me life means Christ!”. in doing this, they not only haven’t responded to the invitation of a lifetime, but of an eternity.