I remember how we spent many of our Saturdays in my family back in Nigeria. We would go as a family to choir practice in the parish church to learn and rehearse the hymns for the Mass on Sunday. Then my mother would usually seize that opportunity and ask each of us to go for the Sacrament of Confession too. I used to think she could somehow read our souls. I guess she only had to observe our bad behaviors! Then later back home she would also make sure that the clothes we chose to wear on Sunday were decent for Mass. I remember her saying to me once about the shirt I wanted to wear to Mass, “Are you going to the disco or what?” Then, she would later find a way to ascertain if we really paid attention to the priest’s homily at Mass.
What did all this impress on me then and more so now? It imprinted in my head and heart that the Mass is such a serious event I could not just show up for Mass. I have to come to Mass as prepared as I possibly can so as to receive and respond to all that God was offering to me at Mass.
The parable in Mt 22:1-14 shows the many possible dispositions of the invitees to the wedding banquet the king was giving for his son. There was simple refusal without any excuses and complete indifference, “Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.” There was also violence against the king’s servants, “The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them and killed them.”
Then there is the case of the man who simply showed up after the king’s invitation was extended to all people. He was completely lacking the necessary dispositions to remain in the banquet. When he was asked how he entered the banquet without the garment, he could not explain why he lacked this necessary disposition, “But he was reduced to silence.”
The king had invited all people to the banquet. He told his servants, “Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” The king had also prepared everything needed for the feast, including the wedding garments for all the guests, “Everything is read; come to the feast.” Lastly, the king judges everyone based on his or her disposition. The man who was thrown out of the banquet had no reason at all for not having put on the already provided wedding garments. He just chose to simply show up to the banquet.
Jesus uses this parable to teach us about the kingdom of God. Our Catholic faith teaches us that the Holy Mass is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. But because the Eucharist is also a making present today of the paschal mystery, the Mass is also our preparation for heaven. It is because Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again that the Father invites all to His banquet, provides for us all that we need for a new and better life in Christ, and will judge each and every one of us at the end of time. Our disposition at Mass must reflect our free and responsible participation in this paschal mystery. We cannot just show up!
Christ has died
The Father continuously gathers us all together because Christ has died for every single one of us. His death gathers us all together, good and bad, saints and sinners, “Jesus died to gather into one the dispersed children of God.”(Jn 11:52). The blood of Jesus, this blood that “speaks more eloquently than that of Abel,”(Heb 12:24) calls out for nothing but divine mercy to cleanse us of our sins and to gather us together as one body of Christ. So we have no excuse not to attend the Mass. We cannot excuse ourselves because of our past sins, unworthiness, or present struggles in life. We also cannot take this invitation for granted considering the death of the Son of God that makes it possible.
Christ is risen
The Father provides for us all that we need for a new life in Christ because His Son Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. We are equipped to live for Him now, “He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”(2Cor 5:15) The right dispositions, the needed wedding garments, are all provided already because of the Son’s triumph over sin and death, “Everything is ready; come to the feast.” We have full and complete access to the grace of the Holy Spirit, divine mercy, solid faith, saving truth, unfailing hope, a love that impels us towards full communion with God and others in heaven, etc. We have no excuse to remain slaves to sin and our old ways of life.
Christ will come again
We pray thus in the Creed, “He (Christ) will come again to judge the living and the dead.” He will judge each of us because, through the Mass, He inserts us into His own paschal mystery and thus clothes us with His own dispositions towards the Father and towards others. This is how the Mass shapes our lives and gives us that joyful hope and strength in the journey towards heaven.
St. Paul shows us a good example of one who has fully entered into the paschal mystery. Writing from his prison cell to the Philippians, he expresses his content in “every circumstance and in all things.” He can accept all adversities and blessings in life because the risen Christ provides all and sustains him, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” He lives for Christ and nothing distract him from his heavenly destiny.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Father is still inviting all to Him today, not because we are good or faithful, but simply because of the blood of His Son Jesus Christ shed on the cross for us. This blood is the source of all that we need for a faithful life in Christ. In the words of St. Paul, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?”(1Cor 10:16) Isn’t this blood of Christ our spiritual drink in each Eucharist? Are we aware of the Father’s longing for deeper communion with us in His Son, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?
Many still refuse this invitation to the Eucharist for a myriad of reasons. Many are indifferent and go about their business. Many become violent and would do anything to prevent the Mass from being celebrated today as we see in cities today in which Masses are particularly prohibited in the guise of preventing the spread of Covid-19.
Some attend the Mass without the necessary disposition to have a change of lifestyle, to begin a new and deeper life in Christ. The divorced and remarried want to receive communion without repentance while pro-abortion politicians think they have a right to the Eucharist while being responsible for the slaughter of millions of infants. Indeed, because we refuse to put on Christ’s disposition through our participation in His paschal mystery in the Mass, many of us will be put to utter silence on the day that He appears to judge us all. We will have no excuse then for our lack of correspondence with His grace at each Mass.
We who have the gift of faith in the Eucharist, who attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, must guard against a laissez faire attitude towards the Mass. Jesus lamented, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” He who lovingly invites us all to His Eucharistic banquet also desires that we be the eternally chosen ones in His heavenly banquet. But how can we hope to worship the Father eternally in heaven when we are not entering into His own Son’s perfect worship here on earth through the Eucharist? How can we hope to enter into paradise with an attitude completely different from that of the Son?
We need to allow Christ make us more and more like Himself in every way possible. That is why the Mass is the first place to begin this perfect worship and to live accordingly. The Mass is that place where we are both prepared and oriented towards our heavenly home by Jesus who will judge each of us at the end of time. All we need to do is to attend Mass and do so always with the right disposition to receive and respond to all that God offers to us. We cannot just show up!
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!