In the Southwest couples at weddings usually exchange arras (coins), libro y rosario (Bible and rosary), and a lazzo. They are cultural symbols, the result of Jewish influence in Mexico. In the wedding that Jesus described, a wedding garment was part of the cultural tradition. The wedding garment was provided at no cost to the guests who did not have one. Therefore, the man who wasn’t wearing one did not have an answer for the King. The man did not answer because there was no answer to give. Why would anyone refuse a gift? What reason could he have that would justify the refusal of hospitality? The man was clearly from the second group who were not originally invited. He was a person from the streets, unknown to the host. He accepted the invitation to come, but apparently not the full benefits of the party, like the fool who bought a ticket on a cruise ship but ate only cheese and crackers from his luggage because he didn’t know that the meals were included. There is a difference between ignorance and a refusal. The man in the story could have defended himself by saying that he didn’t know about the wedding garment, but he had no defense. Therefore, his refusal was deliberate. Only one guest was the problem. The party was still a good idea. So, the man who was not in the mood to celebrate was thrown out. Jesus often compared the Kingdom to a wedding. Jesus is the groom; the Church is His bride. Since we are the Church, we are intimately involved in the celebration. Yet, at times we are like the first group who not only refuse to come but inflict damage on the ones sent to invite us. Consider the false testimony, the criticism, the negative publicity that is prevalent about our Church today, even from within. Some folks want to pick and choose—as if the Church was a cafeteria; they want to pick only the stuff they like and leave the stuff that is challenging. History shows what happens to those who do not follow the Magisterium. Divisions, splits, false teachings are the product of people who are unwilling to trust the Church. Meanwhile, the party continues. One of the closest ways that we have to represent the Kingdom of heaven is Holy Mass. Holy Mass is an act of worship, a meal, but also a party. Originally the Feast of Unleavened Bread was called the Passover. Jesus changed the tradition at the Last Supper when He said, “Take this all of you and eat, drink—for this is my Body; this is my Blood of the new Covenant. Do this in memory of me.” In other words, let the party continue until we celebrate it in heaven. Notice that in the story, the king is not discouraged. The invited refused to come, so the king sent another invitation. However, on the second time, the invited not only refused to come, they mistreated and killed the messengers. Still the king did not discourage. He sent servants into the streets, the small towns, the forgotten places and said, “Come one, come all—free food—free drink—free party.” And so, they came and had a great time and lived happily ever after…. We wish. Because here we are at the party and even with the masks on, not all of us are happy. God’s grace is free. Forgiveness is free. The Eucharist is free. Yet, a great number of folks keep trying to earn their way in. Given fact: No one deserves to be at the party! The king keeps inviting the least expected—even the people who do not think like we do—who do not speak our language—who do not share our beliefs. That’s what happens when you go out into the streets without discrimination and announce a “free for all.” The majority of religions are strict in their requirements. Roman Catholics have always been inclusive. Catholic means “here comes everybody.” Puritanical, Jansenistic ideas have crept into our society, especially with fundamental theology on television. The challenge is to believe in the original message—everyone is invited. The king loves the party and all who are willing to come. The garment is His grace. We dare not refuse the gift.
Msgr. Gustavo Barrera,
celebrated his first Holy Mass as pastor on September 15, 2007, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows. With his enthusiasm and spiritual guidance, OLS continues to serve our Catholic family in a way that will challenge us to grow as an evangelizing community.
Msgr. Gustavo Barrera, Pastor.