Today’s first passage is from the Gospel of Matthew:
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.’ 5 But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
For those of my readers who are Catholic and who attended a Novus Ordo Mass this weekend, you will recognize this Gospel passage. I chose it because the homily that I heard earlier today was, shall we say, lacking. I don’t think it will surprise many of my readers to hear that the priest somehow failed to mention the last few verses about the man without the wedding garment. It was disappointing to me, but not surprising. After all, it adds a somber reminder to what is otherwise a nice component of the “Happy, Cheerful-Time Gospel” that so many like to preach today. I should mention that the fate of the original guests got only cursory mention, not that that is a shock or anything.
The priest talked about how we should invite everyone and how the church should get out on the street. How we shouldn’t worry about getting out shoes muddy in the world. But the truth is that accepting the summons is only the beginning of the process, not the end. It isn’t enough that we show up at the feast, we also need to prepare for it. We need to wear our wedding garments- that is, to cleanse ourselves and purify ourselves. It is incumbent upon us to repent of our sins and confess them to the Lord. To acknowledge our faults, and to seek out His pardon and mercy. Otherwise, we shall end up as Ananias and Sapphira:
But a man named Anani′as with his wife Sapphi′ra sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Anani′as, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Anani′as heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.
Both Ananias and Sapphira showed up for the banquet. But their clothes were soiled, and thus not appropriate for a feast. So they were bound up and cast out into the darkness. And I think it is safe to assume that on the Last Day they will be among those who find themselves in the Pit, where there will be wailing and the gnashing their teeth.
The priest today did everyone a disservice by not addressing the final part of that Gospel passage. There are none who have fallen so far that God is not willing to forgive them and call them home, so long as they repent. Yet the first part of that message is worse than useless without the second. Repentance is at the core of our faith. To overlook it, to fail to mention it, is inexcusable. With it, anyone can be saved. Without it, none of us.
David was considered a man after God’s own heart. Yet he was a sinner, like all of us. Furthermore, his sins were grave- adultery and murder. But despite this, he was forgiven by the Lord… because he had a repentant heart. Let us then seek to follow David, and repent and confess our sins to God, lest we share the fate of Aninias and Sapphira.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love;
according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
and done that which is evil in thy sight,
so that thou art justified in thy sentence
and blameless in thy judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Fill me with joy and gladness;
let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice.
9 Hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence,
and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors thy ways,
and sinners will return to thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
thou God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips,
and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
16 For thou hast no delight in sacrifice;
were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.