Strength for Everything
When World War II broke out, Dr. William S. Butler of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, felt duty-bound to join the Army Medical Corps. He was assigned to a post as remote as possible from his family and his native village – the steaming forests of New Guinea. Treating the wounded and victims of strange equatorial diseases was a good learning experience. But Dr. Butler and his outfit were not in a medical school. They were living right in the middle of a jungle war, constantly exposed to bombs and heavy artillery. The army physician learned there was only one real antidote to fright. “Prayer,” he wrote to his college roommate, has aided us in many a ticklish moment and fortified our courage. I have said more prayers in the past months than in all my life. It gives one the needed push when spirits lag a bit, and takes the bite out of the shells and airplanes.
I wonder how men get along who are without religion of any kind. Personally, I don’t believe that man exists. Please remember us in your prayers.”
“….In Him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything.” (Philippians, 4:13. Today’s second reading).
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q497: Why was the king in Matthew’s story (Matt 22:1-14) unkind to a poorly dressed person? Were not his servants told to gather “whomever they find” in the road?
I suspect that the first comparison people might think of when they try to “imagine” this scene, is the way some folks dress for Mass on Sunday. There are indeed poor people who cannot afford the latest styles, or sometimes even new duds. But we do not make an issue out of that; the clothes are clean, and we are just happy that they are there with us to worship with us as one family in Christ.
But this parable isn’t really about the “kind” of clothes people are wearing. The “wedding garment” is just a metaphor for something else that is going on. Our real focus needs to be on two other things: first, the Invitation to the wedding celebration; and second, our Response to that appealing offer.
Jesus wants all people without exception to be saved and share in the glory of God. So the Invitation goes out – first to some specially “chosen” people, and later to everyone. It is an offer to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God; to believe in his Resurrection; and finally to believe in the Gospel message. Except for a small remnant, the specially “chosen” folks did not accept the generous Invitation. So the Invitation was extended to everyone in the world!
But to receive the Invitation to believe does not guarantee admittance into the kingdom. This moves our focus to the second point – i.e., preparation is necessary. To pay “lip service” to our faith in Jesus, but not live out his Gospel message, is to miss what Discipleship is all about. There is indeed a demand placed on followers of Jesus. We are called to live the moral and ethical values that he embodied in his lifetime and in his teachings. The “wedding garment” in the parable refers to true discipleship rather than uncommitted membership.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Words are not enough to gain the kingdom; deeds are also required CCC #546). In the language of metaphor, Christ is the “bridegroom” and we are the “bride,” united in the Sacrament of Faith: the Sacrament of Baptism (CCC #796).
Come to the Feast. Everything is Ready
Jesus and the prophets use the image of a banquet, a wedding reception, more than any other to portray the consummation of God’s saving activity. The banquet becomes the symbol of our hopes that God will make all things well. What better image of the joy and fullness we will experience when death is vanquished and we are one with our God? But Jesus’ parable also reminds us that in sending our RSVP to the invitation is not enough. We have to prepare ourselves for the occasion. What shall we wear? What gift should we bring? It is not enough to give verbal acceptance of the invitation to the kingdom; we have top live out our response and we can’t do that on our own. Christ offers us the garment, but we have to choose to wear it.
Lord Jesus, I thank you for the invitation to share your life. Sometimes I neglect or misuse the gifts you give to make this possible. Help me to mend my ways, my wedding garment, and respond fully to your invitation.