Every reading for this weekend explores something about our experience of the Sacred and the Holy. It suggests that it doesn't matter so much that we tell ourselves that we are searching for God; because the moment we say the words it is clear that God has already found us. And, having found us, He talks to us of the Spirit and the Truth that is universally available (Jn.4,21,24). The Spirit shakes the house in which we live and puts Justice, Mercy, Peace, Love and Compassion at the top of our agenda. God is present to us always but speaks most clearly to us in the voice of the poor and of those who are suffering. The High Altar, symbol of the rock which is the Beloved Son of God, and the rock that is Peter, becomes the mirror in which we see ourselves passionately
committed together to building a new humanity and a new community where Peace reigns over all.
Eknath Easwarn was travelling from Delhi to Simla. The train stopped at the historic battlefield of the Bhagavad Gita. The train filled with excitement as the passengers talked about the great battle which took place on the ground on which they were now standing. But Eknath stayed in his seat for he knew that the real battlefield was right inside each passenger on the train. (The End of Sorrow, the Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living, vol 1, Nilgirie Press, 1975)
What if the Gate of Heaven, the house of God is inside each of us? What if this is the only place from which true Peace can come?
Thomas Merton put it so beautifully,
At the centre of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure Glory of God in us. It is, so to speak, His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence as daughters and sons. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. I have no programme for seeing this. It is only given. But the Gate of Heaven is everywhere.
(Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p.142,Garden City, N.Y. Doubleday, 1966)
By contrast, have a look at some of the poetry on the Pax Christi website which explores the other side of Peace and why it is so important that it takes centre stage in our journey as disciples of Jesus.
LIONS AND DONKEYS
And after all the carnage, after all the millions of dead and the billions of bullets had been expended, do you know the greatest moral failing of them all?
Beyond all the bayonettings, shootings, gassings, pulverisings,
something far more deadly in effect took place in a railway coach at Compiègne and in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles:
the Humiliation of the Vanquished and the Vengeance of the Victors,
grinding Germany into the dirt and the Jews into the Camps and the World back into War. All for want of imagination and forgiveness, reconciliation and friendship and a Christ-like love of enemy.
When we pray with the Gospels, and listen with our hearts to the story of Jesus, it's pretty clear that Simeon's prophecy came true. Jesus was accepted by some and rejected by others. But the great surprise for the infant church was His acceptance by people who were not Jews. For them, this was God's work. In the story of the Magi, heaven and earth come together: heaven in the form of a star and earth in the first breaths of the Beloved Son of God. Those who ponder this text are left in no doubt that God is the author of the life of Jesus and through Him God speaks to all of humanity.
As always, the rejection of Jesus is violent and evil. The news of his arrival causes fear in the hearts of those who have been faithfully unfaithful to their religious heritage. Jesus is a clear threat to their
position and power. They have corrupted the faith they pledged to protect; when true faith arrives, they will be exposed. The birth of the New King means only one thing to them - He must be killed. Herod
has murder on his mind, but he is no match for God. He stands in the Gospel as an example of all those who say pious and respectable things but only have treachery in their hearts.
In contrast to these idiots, the Wise Ones' hearts are only filled with joy. When the star halts over the stable, heaven and earth are one. They are joined, symmetrical and balanced. And they have found the One who is the fulfilment of their life's longing. The gifts they bring make it clear that they understand who they bow to adore. Gold, for his ordinary needs. Frankincense to honour his divinity. Myrrh for his saving death. What Herod tried to kill, the Wise Ones accept and worship. This is truly a story which celebrates the manifestation of the divinity of Christ to the Gentiles. Herod and his allies take a back seat so that this may be clearly seen.
The story then becomes an occasion for the giving a receiving of gifts. Christ Himself is the present. But now, Gift giving is the way that the invisible becomes visible. And at Christmas Time this is spiritual activity of the highest order. Why? Because it is our attempt to communicate our spirit to someone we care for, in such a way, that our spirit flows into them and they become stronger by our presence. When the gift symbolises a flow of Love, it is the perfect gift, no matter what is inside the wrapping paper. The gifts of the Wise Ones have always been seen as the perfect gifts. On the one hand it shows that they know who Jesus is, they are not fooled by outward trappings and they have truly discerned the inner identity and mission of the child. On the other hand, the gifts reveal the hearts of the ones who give them. The gifts are perfect because they reveal two hearts. The perfect gift is one that carries one heart to another.
One of my favourite stories is O'Henry's 'Gift of the Magi'. It is the story of Jim and Della. They are poor but each have a possession. Della has long, beautiful hair and Jim has the watch. As Christmas approaches, Della cuts her hair and sells it and buys Jim a platinum fob chain for his watch. When she gives it to him, he reveals that he has sold his watch to buy her a set of pure tortoise shell combs for her hair! They fall in the sofa laughing. O'Henry says, "Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest". Jim and Della are wise because although their gifts are now completely useless, they have done their job and carried them into each other's hearts. The gift has strengthened their relationship, assuring them that they know and are known, love and are loved. Oh, to be so Wise!
One of the best ways to come to know Jesus, is through John, who is a prophet. If you are seriously looking for 'the One True Light', a full awareness of what is real and a genuine illumination into Sacred Things, there is only One who can do this, and His name is Jesus. John, the one who isn't the true light who enlightens everything, cannot produce that much wattage. Even though Jesus called him 'a burning and shining lamp', His greater light makes John a mere reflection - like us. One who prepares others to meet Him.
John is sent by God, but those who have come to interrogate him are from the authorities in Jerusalem. They want to know who he is, but all John will tell them is who he is not. Irked, they offer to help by supplying identities, but John refuses them. They cannot return to Jerusalem empty handed or with a list of what John is not, so they almost plead for an answer. John answers by hinting again that they are looking in the wrong place. Now, these have been sent by the Pharisees, so they have one last pop at the question. They are curious about John's activity of baptising. That would be okay if he were a prophet or a messiah. But even here, John sidesteps them. If they want to know who he is they will only find the answer in the one who is coming, who stands amongst them unknown. The interview is over. They have to start looking in the right place.
Here is a great little story which explores this theme. The theme is clear.
In the woods surrounding a monastery, a rabbi lived in a small hut. Sometimes, the monks would see the rabbi walking in the woods and would wonder why he was there.
The Abbot was very distressed as the monastery was in terminal decline. He has prayed and pondered over the situation. He had admonished the mood and behaviour of the monks. All to no avail. One day he saw the rabbi walking in the woods and decided to ask his advice. He walked up behind the rabbi. The rabbi turned, and when the abbot and the rabbi looked into each other's eyes, they began to weep. The sorrow of the situation affected them both deeply. The Abbot knew he did not have to explain the decline of the monastery. He just asked, "Can you give me some wise words to help our community thrive again?"
The rabbi said, "One of you is the messiah'. Then he turned and continued to walk in the woods. The Abbot returned to the monastery and the monks asked him, "What did the rabbi say?" "One of us is the Messiah," the Abbot said the words slowly, almost in disbelief.
The monks began talking to one another. "One of us? Which one? Is it brother John? Or perhaps brother Andrew? Could it even be the Abbot?
From that day, things started changing at the monastery. The monks began to look for the Messiah in each other and to listen to each other for the Messiahs voice. Soon, new younger monks joined them and people started coming back to the monastery for spiritual leadership.
In 'The Gift' Poems by the Great Sufi Master', the poet Hafiz wrote on the same theme.
How Do I Listen to others?
As if everyone were my Teacher.
Speaking to me
Their Cherished Last Words.
Saint Mark opens by summarising all that will follow - 'The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.' But when we get to the end of his Gospel and look back, we realise how bold Mark is being. Every word, "beginning", "good news", "Jesus", "Christ", "Son of God", feels different because of the story which has been told. Mark knows that something has begun that will never end. This is not the standard story of political fame, triumph and glorious recognition. Mark even reverses the conventional meaning of "Christ", and "Son of God". In this Gospel, the main character has no privilege or prestige. The destiny of Jesus was to face fierce resistance from his own religious leaders. He was abandoned and misunderstood by his own disciples. And then to suffer and die and rise again. For Mark, all of this is Good News, and, for those who are ready, his Gospel will provide a deeper and deeper insight into the true meaning of these titles.
And so it begins before it begins. John the Baptist is hard at work. His message is one of repentance or metanoia. John lives like a prophet, eats like a prophet, dresses like a prophet and talks like a prophet. John gives voice to Gods' eternal plea, "Come back to me with all your heart".
As a prophet, John must liberate people from the sin which ensnares them. He does this by asking them to have a new mind and changing their behaviour. He uses Baptism as a powerful symbol of this great undertaking. Those who go down into the water must first have made a rigorous self-examination of the life that they are living. In Baptism, they experience a new sense of freedom. They have shaken off the shackles of the past and are ready for something new. Which is exactly the impression John wants to make. Newly Baptized people are not completed, they are only ready for the main event. In most adventure stories, the hero or heroine must overcome many obstacles in their path to reach their goal. For John, the obstacles are not in the way of the one journeying but in the way of the One arriving! The whole point of clearing the ground is to allow this One to arrive. It works like this; God and the ones who work with God go after people. God is always searching for us and we must cultivate the art of welcoming Him when he comes.
The question then is whether or not we are ready for this new beginning. Are we willing and open? Can we engage with Jesus and his teaching? We can be presented with many opportunities for spiritual formation, but seize none of them. This question of readiness might explain why the teaching of Jesus fell on so many deaf ears.
But I imagine a different kind of scenario for being ready. It might, as Mark suggests begin with a life changing insight into the horror of sin and our need for forgiveness. Perhaps it is more likely that people just wake up one day and find that there is no life in their lives. The passion, pleasure and purpose of what they do and who they are is no longer there. The flow of life and love has dried up and, underneath the surface of things, people are hungry for change. These are the moments when, realising that we are dying at our own hands, we risk it all. If this is true, our encounters with dissatisfaction or desperation might turn out to be our best moment of Grace. The waters of the river Jordan will carry our sins away. The Baptist watches. He deflects our gratitude and praise. He tells us this is only the first step. That someone is coming who will pour Spirit like water into our desert lives. We are on the edge. We hear the Baptist speak," I am the beginning before it begins".
With grateful hearts we bow to St. Matthew as we take leave of him for a while. His absence will be filled by St. Mark who will be our leader and guide as we journey through this new year. St. Mark has much to teach us, and we have much to learn. The Gospel of St. Mark tells the story of Jesus, the Beloved Son of God. All good stories are good when the one telling the story is also listening to it, or telling it to themselves. So please spend time in St. Mark’s company this year and, each week, prepare the Text chosen for the Sunday Eucharist in your prayer and reflection.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. The text chosen for today is high drama. We are commanded to 'Be on our Guard'. Three times the Teacher tells us to 'Stay Awake' in the dark time of uncertainty. The importance of this is underlined by the ending, 'What I say to you I say to all: Stay Awake!' What's all that about then?
St. Mark will be inviting us to listen to the conversations, encounters and teachings of Jesus that communicate spiritual wisdom. All of these are intended to bring the listener from blindness to sight, from deafness to hearing, from lost to found, from sleeping to awaking and from dead to risen. St. Mark wants us to pay close attention to the teaching style of the Master - how he gears what he says to the mindset of his listeners, how he gives them the power to have a breakthrough in understanding.
Jesus, the Teacher, isn't just giving out information. Sitting at His feet, listening to His Word is an encounter with a higher consciousness which is bent on opening whoever is listening to the indwelling Spirit. Everything He says is geared towards the spiritual transformation of His disciples, crowds, religious authorities and individual seekers. To watch Him at work is to grasp the power of the Word made Flesh. Jesus is the embodiment of spiritual wisdom, bursting with grace upon grace and seeking to share its blessings.
Reuven Gold was a modern day sacred story teller and spiritual teacher. Here is one of his stories.
A very advanced disciple was very distraught and pounded insistently on the door of their teacher’s house at midnight. The teacher opened the door. The house was in darkness, but the teacher held a candle in his hand. The disciple blurted out that they were filled with anxiety and had to see the teacher at once. The teacher opened wide the door. The disciple entered, and the teacher closed the door. Then the teacher blew out the candle.
Reuven tells the story and waits to hear what sense it makes to those who have heard it. Then in a loud voice he shouts, "Don't worship your emotions!" His eyes widen. He grins then shakes with laughter. I got the story. I could see the disciples' problem. I saw how flashes of light can push away the darkness. It was a momentary shining but not a steady seeing. St. Mark will teach us, if we let him, how to hold the light that never fails.
Saint Matthew paints a great picture of the Judgement at the end of time. His imagination runs riot in a heavenly courtroom, complete with angels. A room filled with suspense. The fact of judgement is a given but the criteria are not yet clear. The Son of Man King begins, as Matthew always likes Him to begin, by dividing the nations in two. Sheep to the right, goats to the left. The goats are nervous now but it is not yet clear what the Son of Man King is looking for in terms of success or failure.
This text is often called, 'The Gospel of the Final Surprise!' but in reality, the criteria has been there since the foundation of the world. Now, the Father of the Son of Man King is blessing those who were good to His Beloved Son. The sheep' ministered to Him when he was in need or in trouble. This is the "Open Sesame" into the Kingdom of the Father. The sheep are surprised. What about keeping the rules? Or making great Art? Or visiting the Temple/Church/Synagogue/Mosque? Is all that counts how you treated the Son of Man King? The sheep are confused. They cannot seem to remember seeing the Son of Man King in distress. But He reassures them that he is so connected to all creation that even when they did it for the 'least' they did it to Him.
And it seems there is also a fire which has been prepared since the foundation of the world. The goats warrant this final home because they did not help the Lord in distress. They did nothing. The goats are confused, asking the same question as the sheep. But the Son of Man King is clear that they did not care for the least.
Although the sheep and goats share the same confusion, the sheep clearly just attended to the suffering of people around them without considering their 'status' or their ability to pay them back in money or influence. The goats did not see the Son of Man King, but if they had known it was He, you can be sure they would have helped. This would have been a good deed with a guaranteed payback. 'If we had known it was you, O King, and not some miserable nobody, of course we would have helped. Sheep care without calculation. Goats care only with calculation.
Saint Matthews' Judgement scene is exciting. It suggests that the genuine qualities of those who have been filled with the Spirit of God are first, that they act without hesitation to help someone in need. Secondly, they do so without calculating if there is anything in this for themselves. Lastly, their actions remain hidden. This reminds me of the story of a woman who went with some friends to an Ashram. She described this experience as touching the 'real thing'. Asked what she meant, she said that they stayed about six weeks, at the end of which she had a chance to talk to the famous spiritual teacher who lived there. She told him that everything they had experienced during their stay was remarkable. Without missing a heartbeat, he replied, "Everything you see here is because of the grace of my grandmother". You see, she said, he had no need to promote himself or call any attention to his abilities. He knew they were a gift from elsewhere. When caring just happens, and no one is claiming the credit, we know the Spirit of God is present.
So, if I was a reporter interviewing the sheep lounging around in their newly inherited Kingdom, and asked them how they managed to find themselves such amazing digs, I imagine them saying, "We just cared for every person we met, immediately and without calculation. And it wasn't a big deal". Or so it seemed!
Wise sayings, or proverbs, are usually written on the back of experience. ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’. Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Proverbs. In a nutshell, if we are looking for a perfect wife, husband, friend or partner – we will never find them. But if we are lucky enough to find someone who is wise, we will probably be as close as we’re going to be to the dream. So, while Wisdom is praised, and praised again as more precious than money, so too is reverence for Sacred Things. The Psalmist declares that those who move with reverence in the world, in their homes and communities rarely lack anything, and are never lonely. We can find many examples of this through all of Sacred Scripture.
Then, just when we thought that we were beginning to understand the spiritual laws that govern our lives, Jesus comes along and stands them on their head. The format of this weeks’ parable is tried and tested. Usually, after the Master has given his gifts and instructions and then departs, the first two get it wrong and the last one gets it right. When it is told in this way, everyone loves the comedy and are delighted to see the underdog winning for a change. But Jesus’ version turns the story into a tragedy. Worst still, the one who has the least going for him, gets it wrong and loses even that! What’s going on here?
Notice that the servants are not in a competition with each other. But they are in a competition with themselves. What will they do with what has been given to them? Well, first they have to understand the spiritual laws that govern their lives. God gives everything to them freely. They are then invited to give away what they have received. According to physical laws, when we give something away, we no longer have it. But according to spiritual laws, when we give it away we are astonished to see that it doubles! Now comes a new understanding of how Spirit grows and a greater responsibility to make that happen. This is what the parable calls, ‘entering into the joy of your Master.’ The Master who knows spiritual laws, calls these servants ‘good and faithful’. They have been faithful to goodness by imitating it. It was given to them, they gave it to others, and now they watch it grow and unfold.
But alas, the same law of the spirit proposes a ‘use it or lose it’ adventure. If Spirit is given away, it increases exponentially. If it is buried, it is lost. The Master, who knows the flip side of the law of happiness, takes the talent away from the one he calls, ‘wicked and lazy’. And, since it cannot stand alone, it is given to the one who has ten.
The Master calls this servant, wicked and lazy but the servant rejects this description claiming that his whole life was diminished by being afraid of everything – especially the Master! Notice, the Master does not disagree. In fact, he repeats what this servant has said. But then he draws a different conclusion. Either way, he should have acted to double the gift he had been given. His failure to understand puts him in deeper darkness with only tears of regret for company.
So, here’s the thing. We should not take God for granted and instead, nurture in our lives a healthy reverence for what we do not yet know. At the same time, we must never, ever, ever, turn God into a terrorist. Our own experience in prayer should give us a clearer view of the tenderness which enfolds us. If fear immobilises us, we need to find a new strength with the support and presence of good and faithful servants of the Lord. They have much to teach us. But perhaps the most shocking aspect of what Jesus does with this Parable is to remind us that when we lose the Icon of Gods’ Face from our hearts we can talk ourselves into spectacular loss.
It's turning colder and the days are getting shorter. It's great to be able to flick a switch to push the darkness and the cold away. We live in blessed times! But how do we switch on to the teaching of Jesus, especially when we sit with Parables like the one given for this Sunday?
The Kingdom of Heaven is first, a new way of seeing reality and a new way of living in that new reality. Disciples must be transformed away from the ordinary and have the courage to act in the world in an extraordinary way. This is not easy. Saint Paul, writing to the new community in Corinth (2:5,17) said that 'anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.' Today's Parable explores this theme but highlights the danger of missing the main event.
From the outset the Parable is strange. Usually only one person awaits the bridegroom - the bride. But here we have ten. The bridegroom is obviously Christ but who are these others who are separated as wise or foolish? The call goes out that in the darkest moment the bridegroom has arrived. Lamps must be lit so He can recognise the faces of those who are waiting for Him. But lamps don't work without oil. The foolish have none, and the wise seem to be really selfish when they tell them to 'go and buy some for yourself'. The truth about the oil is that we have to have our own. Each of us must listen to the teaching of the Christ and make it our own. We cannot fly on the ticket of anyone else. Each person’s lamp must produce its own wattage.
In the writings of the early Christians, Isaac of Nineveh wrote, " There is a Love like a small lamp, fed by oil, which goes out when the oil is ended; or like a rain-fed stream which goes dry, when rain no longer feeds it. But there is a love, like a spring gushing from the earth, never to be exhausted". The wise virgins are in touch with this river. So their oil is continuously replenished and not consumed. The foolish have not found it yet. They live by buying and selling. They keep looking outside of themselves for what can only be found within. Worse still, right to the end, the foolish think that it is Jesus, implored as Lord, who will open the door for them. They have not understood that the Kingdom of God has been given to them and they can only open the door by themselves. It is the lamp of their new vision and the oil of Love which will open the door. The Parable insists that must grow up, stand on our own feet and do the will of the Father for ourselves. Even the disciples who claim to have healed, prophesied and cast out devils 'in Jesus name' (Matt,7:21-23) are told it is not enough. The Parable concludes with a caution that we must stay awake to this truth. Every breath we take is the day or the hour when He might come.
Gandhi once said, "My life is my message". St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel, but use words only when necessary". The last words of Buddha to his followers was, " Be a light unto yourself". Martin Luther cautioned, "You are going to die alone, you better believe alone". Silesius asked, "What good if Gabriel hails the virgin and does not hail me?" This is the delicate balance needed to be a disciple of Jesus. On the one hand we proclaim from the heart that "He is Lord", yet worshipping Him from afar with extravagant praise and petition is not enough.
We cannot ride Him as if he was a horse. He must be invited to take
up residence in our hearts. Allowed to build us up from the
inside. To confirm us a beloved daughters and sons of God and as
sisters and brothers all who really, really care for each other. This is
how the Divine pleasure flows through us. Perhaps that is why Saint
Paul wrote to the Galatians, "it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ
living in me". (Gal:2,20). The Parable of the Ten Virgins alerts us to
the situation where we might know everything about Him, except the
one thing necessary. But if we awaken to the truth. If we take His Truth to heart. The door opens. We are like a person locked in a room, calling to be freed, who realises we had the key all the time
This weekend, let us joyfully unite ourselves with all people of good will and remember the special bond of love we have with our sisters and brothers in the Diocese of Bamenda.
If we are doing something that makes us miserable we need to stop doing it. Finding joy in ourselves and in our lives, is the first call of the Gospel. We have to know that the ‘yoke’ of the Gospel is easy. Its burden light. In Hinduism there is a saying “Some carry Scripture the way a donkey carries sandalwood. They know the burden but not the fragrance”. Some people, religious and otherwise, love making rules for everyone else to live by. Along the way, they can be inclined to make exceptions for themselves. Those who make laws often think they are above them!
Their ambition, of course, is to have increased status. In today’s Gospel, the poor old Pharisees parade their piety to promote themselves. If you didn’t know, Phylacteries are long boxes containing sacred texts. Although these sacred texts are meant to be written on the heart, to become their eyes of the heart, they carefully keep the word of God at arm’s length. They abandon love of God and of their neighbour in favour of Love for themselves and the honours they can manipulate others into giving them.
Jesus offers His disciples and new vision of community, freed from this oppressive hierarchical structure. The new humanity will have only one Father and one Teacher or Master and will abandon the use of these titles for one another. The vision is of a new community where everyone is first. A community that thrives on the flow of
Grace where all are receiving from God and giving to one another. In the flow of abundance, the striving for status, recognition and exemption will have less power. This is the exact opposite of their experience with the Pharisees. But the question still remains if the disciples of Jesus have ever actually done anything better than the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. Given the history of the Church, and our own personal experience, it looks as if we are doomed to repeat the old mistakes unless we try something new.
No one practices what they preach. We can have a clear vision of what is possible. But when we try to live it out, we bump into ourselves, our old habits, our egos and secular social pressures. The Sufi teacher, Pir Vilayat Khan has pointed out that the holiest teacher can fall from Grace when doing their annual tax return! So, practicing what we preach involves what Joh Sobrino has called, ‘an endless openness to conversion’. This need for conversion does not mean we are failing. It comes with the territory of following something large enough for us
to betray. So, when we speak of a new vision for community and a new humanity to serve that vision, we should be wise enough to keep the sackcloth and ashes within reach and our eye on the nearest confessional.
The Antiques Road Show is brilliant. Trying to guess the current value of something old is great fun in my house. It's funny how we seem to like old things. From a global perspective, it sometimes seems that we defend, shelter and protect them with more care than we have for the people living with us. The same is true of the 'deposit of faith'. We love and cherish and protect it. Any talk that God may be revising ancient agreements is suspect. The guardians of truth don't like new claims. The big stuff happened long ago and far away. With this mindset, the arrival of an invitation to a wedding feast where God is about to do something new, might not be well received.
The Kingdom of Heaven is an experience. A special moment has arrived and we are invited to be part of it. Something never seen before is unfolding before our eyes. God is here and we find on our doorstep and invitation to a wedding feast. The religious leaders politely refuse to go. Some of them not so politely! Now, a select guest list becomes indiscriminate. The main roads carry universal traffic. There is no ethnic, gender, age or moral requirement. The wedding of the Son is a beggar’s feast. A gathering of those who accept the invitation. But a great surprise awaits them. They were not invited to witness a wedding but to be married to the Son. The garment they wear signals their readiness to understand and act on the teachings of Jesus. They must marry the revelation and bear the children of Justice, Compassion and Love in the world. If they do not do this, they are reduced to silence. They cannot remain at the feast for this is a wedding only for those who want to be married.
A story that began as a cautionary tale to the leadership of Israel now ends as one to us. Belonging is important but it is only the first step. Each one has to take seriously the task of growing in our understanding of the teachings of Jesus. Hearing is a beginning but just hearing is a fatal end. Hearing must be followed by understanding and understanding must be followed by action. As Jesus himself states in John 13:17 ' If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.'
In the end it comes to this. The Beloved Son of God asks us to marry him. As in all such moments, timing is crucial. The moment to go deeper, the moment to touch the heart of God, the moment to
fall in love, comes to different people at different times. Some are drawn when they are very young, some in midlife, some in older age. Some arrive at the wedding on the back of a huge failure, some
in gratitude for some blessing. Some come only after death has knocked at their door and taken away someone who shared their table. It would be too easy to say that eventually everyone will find their wedding garment. But it would be too cynical to say that some might not. We are all Christians but the timetable of our lives is not the same. If home is a place that when you go they have to take you in, the Christian community is a place that welcomes you when you are ready for more.
I don't know about you, but for me the story of the wedding feast is the story of an open invitation, and this is more important pastorally than the wedding garment. Saint Matthew, lover of dual endings might not agree. But it is clear that all are invited. Good and bad alike. But good and bad are strange designations. What do they mean to those who know themselves well? Still, the Beloved Son of God finds us desirable. Even if we did not come with a wedding garment, the groom has one for us and He has chosen it with great love.
CATHOLIC PARISH OF ST JOSEPH & ST MARGARET CLITHEROW
St Joseph’s Church. 39 Braccan Walk, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 1BE (Directions)
Tel: 01344 425729
South Berkshire Pastoral Area
The parish is part of the Diocese of Portsmouth.
Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust registered charity 246871
St Joseph’s Church. 39 Braccan Walk, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 1BE (Directions)
Tel: 01344 425729
South Berkshire Pastoral Area
The parish is part of the Diocese of Portsmouth.
Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust registered charity 246871