Monday, October 13, 2008

Homily for 28th Sunday Year A

We all have choices: Doritoes or Cheetos, Chips Ahoy! or Oreos, Roncalli or Central…well at least sometimes you can choose both. As a Catholic priest, one nice thing about the Mass is that I don’t make many choices. The Church has set out the color of vestments, the prayers for each Sunday and the readings. But every once and a while, the Church throws us a curve ball and says, “You can choose between the long and the short form of the reading.”

Now, you might think there wouldn’t be much different between the long and the short form, but you’d think wrong. Today’s Gospel, if I had read the short form, would have ended:
“Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.”

But the whole Gospel passage, indeed, the whole story that Jesus tells in this 22nd Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel ends with this thought:
“Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen."

What a difference?

So if Jesus ended his parable the first way, my homily to you would have three parts: First, invite people to Mass, second, invite people to Mass, and third, invite people to Mass. Fr. Joe and I try to do that already but you meet and know so many more, whether in your work place or your neighborhoods. You know people who got mad with priests or had a tragedy and left the Church, invite them back. Maybe they aren’t Catholic but are interested in the fullness of the Christian life, invite them to join our RCIA classes that just started, or simply give us a call with their name and phone number so we can reach out to them.

Much like the Gospel, we might be comfortable stopping here, but, just like the Gospel, we need to continue on with this story of inviting people to Mass. Think about this poor fellow who was thrown out by the king, what were his neighbors thinking as they walked in with him. Surely someone else noticed that he wasn’t wearing a wedding garment? But no one said anything! If we invite people to Mass, we must not let them come unprepared.

First, invite them to Mass! Second, let them know that the Mass is different from a prayer service or Sunday Worship. The Mass is the prayer of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The Mass is not something we make up but Jesus’ own prayer in which the Holy Spirit allows us to take part. The Mass is the wedding feast of God and the human race through the Cross of Jesus Christ. With that in mind we need to remind our guests of the customs for this wedding feast.

If they are not Catholic, let them know that cannot invite them to receive communion when they join us. They have to wait for that full communion of the Sacraments and faith that comes at Easter time. If they are Catholic, gently remind them of the need for confession. Some people are afraid of confession, especially if they have been away from the life of the Church for some time. Don’t be afraid to invite them to come with you, leading by example is always very powerful. No one is too sinful or too far for a good confession.

When you invite them to Mass, remind them of the simple things you learned as a child but that might seem foreign to them. Remind them not to chew gum. Invite them to fast for one hour before Mass, just like you fast. Invite them to dress nicely- sometimes that small effort of a shirt or slacks to change into after a soccer match can be very moving. Finally, show them the missalette so they can see the prayers and readings.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, this participation in Jesus’ own prayer, is the greatest gift that God has given us. Do not be afraid to invite in those who have left or forgotten it. Do not be afraid to invite your non-Catholic friends to consider the faith. Do not be afraid to let them know how to properly take part so they won’t feel awkward. Do let them know that through the Mass we can turn to the Lord.

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