Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
I guess we’ve all had the experience when we’ve prepared an event and the turnout was less than we hoped. Preparations, so much care. Invitations are sent; RSVP by a certain date, no response; reminders to RSVP. It happens all the time in the parish. You can’t measure response, you can’t expect a certain result. Or, sometimes 90 will RSVP and 140 will show up for dinner. More than 16,000 are invited, maybe 500 will fill out a card.
Imagine, though, it is a wedding. Last week’s Gospel was about a wedding banquet. Nobody came. Imagine the bewilderment, or even rejection, felt by the host. Imagine if the host were you, and nobody came.
On a certain level we know that this Gospel is about salvation history. God offered the banquet to his chosen people over and over. The covenant was broken, God relented, restored them, they fell again. Eventually the banquet was set and the bridegroom—God’s son—was inviting. Rejected, he turned to the beggars and the sinners out in the bushes—us—to come. RSVP. Jesus was pretty clear at the Last Supper that this banquet, and the Passover before, and his sacrifice of Calvary of himself to the Father, was one and the same. The saving banquet is the Mass, the Eucharist. RSVP!
Some of us reply. Fewer than that come.
We hear the fulfillment of this banquet in its apocalyptic form in the kingdom of heaven in John’s vision of the banquet in Revelation 19:
After this I heard what sounded like the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying: “Alleluia! Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments…” A voice coming from the throne said: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who revere him, small and great.” Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder, as they said: “Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, God, the almighty. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.” Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These words are true; they come from God.”
Suddenly, perhaps, it dawns on me. Wait a minute. I’m not the host, or the guest. This isn’t just an event I’ve come to watch or enjoy. The realization sinks in: “I’m the bride.”
Now, imagine a wedding that the bride doesn’t show up for. I’ve only seen one in 20 years, it was one of the saddest days I can recall. The groom sobbed. How can the banquet proceed? Now, imagine this is Your Wedding that you don’t show up for—you are the bride (or groom). How can a relationship that was real not have its fulfillment in the marriage covenant and the life of love? Or maybe the relationship wasn’t there in the first place.
I realize I’m “preaching to the choir”: you all are here in church. And our parish is probably a good bit higher in attendance than the national average. But every member of the Body must be here, or the Wedding Feast is incomplete. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the relationship isn’t real for the majority of the bride, because the Church is the bride. We are standing up our Bridegroom at the altar. Literally.
A couple of weeks ago we were talking about heaven in 8th grade. As I look back on it now, I realize that nobody mentioned anything about a feast. That always used to be the first answer, and a discussion would follow about what kind of amazing food would be on the table. We got the understanding from Scripture, from attending Mass. It’s language that you absorb just by being at Mass, it is so abundant. “Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb,” the priest says, right before Communion. Our kids aren’t at Mass, they aren’t getting it from their parents. It is a truth of faith that is largely lost. We forgot it.
The invitation has arrived. Did you open it? Or was it set aside to see what else might demand your presence in the meantime? Like I said, I get it: we are all busy. But some engagements require a wedding, especially when God has chosen us for his covenant of marriage, and we are the Bride.
God bless you.