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Saturday, October 11, 2014

There Can Be No Mercy Without the Fullness of Truth

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea, 
Saints Peter & Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ Oct. 12, 2014
"In fact, there can be no mercy without the fullness of truth."
Fr John Paul Shea
at his ordination in 2013
In today’s Gospel passage for this 29th Sunday in Ordinary time we are given another parable (Matt 22:1-14.) that is one of the most strangest and shocking parables in the Gospel of Matthew. In this parable, as with other parables, our Lord is seeking to grab our attention. He wants to wake us up to the reality of what He is trying to say.
Royal Wedding Feast:
Many are called. Few are chosen. 
We hear of a king who gives a wedding feast for his son and who sends out his servants to invite the people. Now, in the time of Jesus, there was no greater honor then for a king to invite one to the wedding of his son. So, we can recognize right away the importance of this invitation.
We then hear of the different excuses of those who are invited. Some simply refuse to come. Others ignore the invitation and go away, “one to his farm, another to his business.” And the rest who are invited lay hold of his servants, mistreat them and kill them.
Now, as we examine these words, we can first recognize that the king represents God while the wedding is the reign of God’s feast for His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. It will take place at the end of time. 
Those invited to the wedding feast were God’s chosen people, the Israelites. The servants, who issued the invitation,  represent all the prophets and teachers of Israel sent by God over the centuries to invite this people to the feast of eternal salvation.
The prophets and teachers are ignored, rejected, and even murdered. So, we can see that the people have consistently refused this invitation. The final rejection to this invitation is the rejection of Our Lord Jesus Himself who was murdered on a cross. The anger of the king represents God’s anger against those who hear His invitation to salvation but still refuse to accept it.
Not the proper dress
for a wedding
Once the invitation is rejected, the king  tells his servants to go out into the streets and invite everyone into the wedding feast, the good and the bad alike. This is each and every one of us. Yet, there is a punch line in this scene: we hear that there is a guest at the wedding who is not wearing the proper dress. So he is thrown out into the outside darkness where there is wailing and grinding of teeth.
My brothers and sisters, today’s parable is all about accepting God’s invitation to eternal salvation and our proper response is to strive to change our lives! God invites every person to receive His salvation. He began with the Jews and He has extended His salvation to every single person. Yet, we continue to either reject God’s invitation of salvation or we accept his invitation but do not wear the proper dress. In other words, we accept His invitation but do not strive to change our lives.
As Catholics, each one of us is invited to the wedding feast of God. This invitation is the Mass.  Yet, how many of us Catholics ignore this great gift! How often are we too busy for God! Or how often do we come to Mass without acknowledging the great gift of the Eucharist? 
On the other hand, how often do we Catholics accept God’s invitation yet want to come into our Church and dictate how we should dress. In other words, we accept God’s invitation, but we want to be Christian on our terms. Instead of entering God’s Church as an invited guest, we seek to come into God’s Church by our own expectations and our own rules?
This sort of thinking does not come from God. It comes from the world. We do not choose Christ. Christ chooses us! He invites us to live by His commandments. He calls us to conform our lives to Him so that we can have eternal life!
Heaven is like a wedding feast. And our Church is a foretaste of this wedding feast. The reason why our Lord has come into our world is so that we can be united to God. It is like a marriage. We become united to Him so that we can share in His divine life! 
Therefore, if we want to be part of this eternal banquet, which begins here on earth, we must first accept this invitation. And in accepting this invitation, we need to put on the proper clothes! We must take off our old self and put on the new self. We must strive to live a life without sin!  
We hear much today with the papacy of Pope Francis of the need for our church to be a more merciful Church. This is a good because we always need to be merciful.  Yet, we are reminded that the path of mercy is always the path of truth. In fact, there can be no mercy without the fullness of truth.
Many Christians today simply want mercy without truth. They want to be Christian without the cross. They want the comfortable life without the struggle. But we know from the life of our Lord Himself that this is not the Christian life! The Christian life is not an easy life. This is why there are so very few authentic Christians in our society today! This is why our Lord has said that our Church is the narrow gate. This is why our Lord says in today’s parable that many are invited but few are chosen!
As the king in today’s parable called his servants to go into the main streets and gather people into the marriage feast, we too are to go out into the streets and proclaim the message of salvation to the entire world. In fact, in his message at World Youth Day in Brazil, Pope Francis used this exact phrase. He said, “I want the Church to go out into the streets, I want us to defend ourselves against all worldliness…”  
My brothers and sisters, we must proclaim the message of salvation! Yet, we are to go out into the streets not to bring the world into our Church but to bring the sacredness of our Church out into the world. We need to let the world understand why our church teaches against the issues of today that are ruining our culture such as same sex marriage and cohabitation. We need to let the world know of God’s mercy for those who seek forgiveness! We need to let the world know the message of conversion! 
God has given us our Church to be the message of salvation! Therefore, our emphasis must be on holiness. The Church is not a club. It is not a social gathering. It is not about how many people we can bring inside.
No! The Church is about accepting the invitation of our Lord to eternal salvation and striving to live a life of holiness. We can either accept this invitation or we can reject it.
We can enter our Church with a desire to change our lives, or we can be thrown out into the outer darkness where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. The choice is ours. May each one of us strive to accept God’s invitation for eternal salvation,  and may we each respond to this invitation by striving to change our lives.

Did your enjoy this post? Fr. John Paul Shea has another one from Oct. 5, 2014

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