Our readings today give us a deep insight into the structure of reality. The first reading and the gospel show us what creation is all about. Creation exists to be married to God. We exist to become one with God. This is the image of the wedding feast in our first and second readings, the union of heaven and earth. This is the pattern of existence: how reality comes to be. This is the fullness of the Eucharist in which we participate, the Eucharist which forms us, which becomes our life, which, in turn, is how we relate to the world. This is how the world is redeemed, how it becomes the Church, the Bride of Christ.
Knowing this, knowing that this is why we exist, realising how much we are loved and who loves us: knowing all this goes a long way to reaching the spiritual state St Paul describes for us in our second reading. He states that he has learned the secret of life: to be in communion with God. To have God’s Word rule my life. “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.”
The second reading, then, is perhaps the wedding feast in miniature or interiorly, the perspective of a spouse . Doesn’t matter what happens in the lead up to the wedding. Doesn’t matter what happens at the reception. Doesn’t matter what happens in good times and bad or in sickness and in health. Nothing else matters, so long as I am with the one I love, the one who loves me and whose love beckons me into a fuller and fuller life.
However, there are a few details, especially in our Gospel, that grab our attention. The first is the response of those called to the wedding. The second is the failure of one guest to wear the wedding garment. I would like to have a quick look at each of these.
First, the invitation. What is it about the invitation that makes people react in this way? We are told that people ignore the invitation or have other priorities like business. We are also told that a great number of those invited react violently to the invitation, maltreating and killing the messengers. What kind of invitation gives rise to such a response?
I think we have a few hints. First, we have our penitential rite at the beginning of Mass. There we hear that Christ came to call sinners. Perhaps the messengers are turning up at people’s door with invitations addressed to sinners. Perhaps the invitations come in the form of people’s sins, perhaps a photo of our worst moment. Perhaps the messenger that comes to me is precisely the person against whom I have sinned, the one I have harmed through my action or inaction.
It is a common experience when faced with an embarrassing mistake to ignore it, to pretend it doesn’t exist, even to double-down on it so as to avoid shame. We see that all the time in our society. More than likely, we have been the victims of it. Even more likely, we have perpetrated this at some time.
The second hint that this might be the case is the first reading. We hear that God will take away his people’s shame. We hear that God’s banquet is hidden from the eyes of the world by the veil of death. When we hear about our sins, when we realise what we have done, the world presents this as death. For many, shame is a death sentence. The world presents us with no way back. Redemption and mercy are fairy tales, no matter what people say.
This veil, though, is torn by Christ’s death. Christ’s death on the Cross turns all our sins into a new, unforeseen way for Christ to reveal God’s love for us. Accepting what we have done is the only way home. Death has become the way to eternal life. This is how God heals us and raises us up. It is by looking on the one whom we have pierced, seeing the face of the one who has lovingly borne our sins: this is the way that Christ wipes away every tear from our eyes.
This, I think, is the wedding garment, namely, the reality of our baptism. In the case of royal weddings, all guests were provided with wedding garments. Like school uniforms, the idea was that everyone wore the same thing to signify everyone’s basic equality. In the case of God’s wedding feast, our fundamental equality is that Christ died for each one of us. We accept our invitation by recognising ourselves in Christ’s call to sinners, by realising that our sins are no longer death, and putting on the wedding garment of Christ’s surpassing love.
None of us can afford to refuse this wedding garment. None of us can shun this equality, the equality of being fellow sinners, and the even greater equality of now being called to become members of God’s family.
As always, this is the greatest challenge. To accept God’s revelation of our sins as the invitation to growth, as the pathway to peace. When we reflect on the events of this week, when the veil of death seems incredibly obvious, we are called to turn our eyes to Christ, to see light and life where others only see darkness and death.