There's no shame in being poor, only poorly dressed.
2 Cor. 1:21-2:4;
The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
The Holy Martyr Mammas.
Our Venerable Father John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople.
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3:34 PM 9/5/2012 ó This parable is really nothing more than a continuation of the moral lesson our Lord started to give us last Sunday: the tenants had forgotten that they didnít own the vineyard. We ended by interpreting our Lordís parable to mean that life is something we have on loan from God for a while, not something we possess outright; and, when it is over, it must be returned to the owner with proof that we have used it as directed. Todayís parable is really very much the same, and gives the same warning: the danger of being unfaithful to the Divine Summons. In the early centuries of the Church this Gospel lesson about the wedding feast was used more than any other by the Fathers of the Church to explain how God could desire the salvation of all men even though so many would not be saved. For them, those who were invited in the beginningóbut who failed to show upórepresented the Israelites, invited by Christ into the Kingdom of Heaven, but who turned down the invitation by rejecting the one who had invited them. And the others, who were dragged in from off the street, represent ourselves, the gentiles; but, even among them there are two groups: those who are prepared and those who arenít, and those who arenít are cast out into eternal darkness.
One of the drawbacks of living our our secularized, pragmatic society is that we tend to equate justice with fairness, even though they are far from the same thing; and there is, Iím sure, a part of us which wants to say that the King in our Lordís parable is acting very unfairly. After all, heís the one who commanded that strangers be dragged in from off the street when the invited guests didnít come. How much sense does it make, then, for him to scold and punish someone for not being properly dressed? But remember itís a parable, not a TV show; our Lord doesnít tell us the story for our entertainment; he expects us to learn something. The king sincerely desires that all should come to his feast; but he expects his guests, once theyíre there, to make use of the facilities he has labored to provide. A poor person, dragged in from off the street, is not expected to have a proper wedding garment when he first arrives; but, once heís there, he can and must get hold of one.
Because his own people rejected the invitation to new life and grace, the Lord has invited us. For those of us born into the faith, it is very much like we have been dragged in from off the street, we being too young to make the decision for ourselves; but, once inside the Church, there are all kinds of facilities that our host has provided to help us make ourselves worthy of that call. The Holy Mysteries of the Church offer us the grace we need to do that. Baptism and Chrismation wipe the slate clean from the sin of our First Parents; Confession can wipe the slate clean again when we fall prey to temptation and sin; the Blessed Eucharist nourishes us with the life of Christ himself. And our host, the Lord Jesus, suffered and died to give us these things. So, we may have entered this feast improperly dressed, but there is little excuse for being improperly dressed now, and certainly little excuse for being improperly dressed when the feast is over and it is time for us to surrender our lives back to God.
God never expected any of us to to come to him on our own merits, because we have none. He brings us into his house, his Church, through his own grace and mercy, and opens to us opportunities for purification and communion with him. It is for us to make use of these opportunities and to prepare ourselves to take our place at his Holy Table.
Father Michael Venditti