Jesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
“Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14)
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
To understand more deeply what it means to “clothe ourselves in Christ,” let’s first look at Jesus’ parable about a king inviting guests to a wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). This parable also provides insights into the most basic aspect of our salvation After most of the invited guests rejected his invitation to his son’s wedding, the king sent servants out into the streets to invite anyone they could find-good or bad. When the banquet hall was finally filled, the king noticed that one of these new guests was not wearing the traditional wedding garment. Enraged, he had this man thrown out of the banquet.
How could the king be so cruel? In Jesus’ time, it was customary for the host of a wedding reception to provide his guests with a special garment. We can assume that in this parable all the people who came in from the streets “put on” this garment when they arrived. But this one man chose not to put the garment on. This was an insult to the king, and was seen even as a rejection of his son. Without the garment, the man was no longer welcome, so the king had him ejected.
Confess and Believe. Writing to the believers in Rome, St. Paul said: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Every Sunday at Mass, we proclaim an expanded version of this promise when we say the Nicene Creed. The creed is not just a statement of Catholic doctrine; it is, more importantly, meant to be a proclamation of living faith and a confession of trust. Whenever we confess that we believe, and when we believe this with all our hearts, we too are putting on the garment of salvation that God generously gave us at our baptism. It is as if we are reaching into the closet of our hearts and clothing ourselves with Jesus’ “wedding garment.”
However, living a holy life includes far more than just “confessing” our faith and putting on the garment of salvation. As we learn how to wear this garment, we find ourselves being transformed-over time-into the very image of Jesus. And this transformation happens in three ways: in our personality, our priorities, and our prayer lives. In this article, we will look at what it means to have a transformed personality. In the next article, we will look at what it means to have transformed priorities and a transformed prayer life.
A Transformed Personality. Describing the change in personality that Jesus’ clothing effects in our hearts, Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote: “Being a believer means being clothed in Christ. . . . This is much more than wearing a cloak that covers our misery. It refers to a total transformation that allows us to say with Paul: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me’ (Galatians 2:19-20). We are the living Christ in the world. Jesus, who is God-made-flesh, continues to reveal himself in our own flesh. Indeed, true salvation is becoming Christ.” (Bread for the Journey)
This is God’s goal for our lives. He wants us to become “Christ to the world.” This means changing our personalities deep down. It means making us holy-that is, different and set apart for his purposes. It means that, more and more each day, we think and act like Jesus.
Jesus thought and acted differently. For instance, when he saw Zacchaeus, he could have ignored or made fun of this small man sitting in a tree. He could have chosen to rebuke the sinful tax collector. But instead, he chose to invite himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ home. When he met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, he could have rebuked the five-time divorcee. He could have ignored her since she was a lowly Samaritan. But he chose instead to offer her living water. Finally, when a Roman centurion came asking him to heal his servant, Jesus could have expressed resentment against the Roman occupation of Palestine. He could have told the centurion to go ask the Roman gods for healing. But instead, he chose to heal the man’s servant.
Clearly, Jesus’ way was God’s way. Being clothed in Christ, we have the power to respond to life just as Jesus did. Maybe we can’t be as perfect as he was. Maybe we still have some of those “old rags” clinging to us. But as Henri Nouwen said, we are still the “living Christ in the world.”
If we do clothe ourselves in Christ and put on the garment of salvation, our personalities will be transformed. We will see people, events, and even life itself in a new and different way-through the eyes of faith, hope, and love-just as Jesus did.
(This article is an adaptation of the article, “Personality, Priorities, Prayer” in the May 2008 issue of The Word Among Us devotional magazine. Used with permission. Joe Difato is the publisher of The Word Among Us.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- 1. In what way does the “Parable of the Wedding Feast” provide a deeper understanding into the importance of clothing ourselves in Christ?
- 2. The article describes some new insights into what it means to “clothe yourself” in Christ. How would you describe what it means?
- 3. Why is confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart (Romans 10:9) so important to our salvation? How would you describe what is meant by “believe in your heart”? How strong is your heart commitment to Jesus? How could you strengthen it?
- 4. The article says that becoming “Christ to the world” means “changing our personalities deep down.” What areas of your personality do you believe the Lord wants to change “deep down”? What steps can you take to open yourself more to this work of the Lord?
- 5. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that you are a “new creation in Christ.” Do you believe this? Why or why not?
- 6. The article ends with these words, “If we do clothe ourselves in Christ and put on the garment of salvation, our personalities will be transformed. We will see people, events, and even life itself in a new and different way-through the eyes of faith, hope, and love-just as Jesus.” In what way is this already true in your life? What areas need to change?