28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ordinarily, when you get an invitation to dinner or a party, it presumes there is a connection, a relationship, or at best the potential for a relationship, between the sender of that invitation and you, its intended recipient. Invitations sent out to everyone within range like when you’re walking down the street and someone hands you a flyer for a restaurant around the corner, or they’re sent to everyone on a list like you might get occasionally from friends asking you to like their Facebook page, or they’re dispersed at random for maximum exposure but addressed to no one in particular—

My dearest,

Let me first of all inform you I got your email address from an anonymous email directory. I am Mrs. So-and-so, married to Dr. So-and-so, from some remote country far, far away who worked with a construction company also far, far away for 20 years before he died in a recent terrorist attack or tsunami or earthquake.

We do not have any children. But I have money to give away and I thought of you.

—you ever get those?, these are nothing more than phishing expeditions. They might sound sincere like those pesky emails from Nigerian princes looking to transfer several million dollars into your bank account for a small processing fee, or phone scams telling you the IRS has a warrant for your arrest, but if you can read between the lines, you might detect their not-so-honorable intentions. Only the unsuspecting and careless get caught in their trap. If you still keep getting these emails, ask a teenager to help you send them directly to your trash folder.

So if you ever get a personally addressed invitation to a wedding banquet from some celebrity or bigwig or member of some royal family who is throwing a feast for their son or daughter, you might stop to ask yourself if there exists some connection or relationship, or the potential for a relationship, between the sender of that invitation and yourself. Nowadays, a personally addressed invitation can still look sincere because it’s addressed directly to you. Computers can accomplish that sort of deception easily. A few years back, such a personal touch could only be done by hand. Still, the salutation on the actual invitation might appear generic or be missing entirely. If at this point you are still questioning the existence of a connection or relationship with the sender, there’s a good chance you don’t have one. Feel free to chuck it; or hold on to it and await further instruction; or if it’s really fancy, frame it and show it off to your friends. Chances are, they won’t even know if you didn’t respond. Or if they care.

But if it’s real, and that connection, relationship, or potential for a relationship, does exist, it will trigger some kind of emotional response. It tells you the sender thinks highly enough of you, and wants you to share in their joy. You might not be sure if you actually want to share their joy. Maybe you disapprove of their choice of spouse, their choice of lifestyle, or their choice of venue. Maybe the invitation was meant to literally drive you up the wall. But if it is sincere and the relationship is real, and you can make the date, then you will have to start planning what to wear.

I don’t usually have that problem, whether I’m officiating or not. But regular people like yourselves will have to abide by a dress code and consider your options accordingly. What is a proper wedding attire? Certainly, you want to honor your host. You want to wear something dignified and classy. Rule of thumb: If your mother might disapprove, wear something else. And you don’t want to upstage your host either. Don’t come dressed as the bride if you’re not the bride. Some people need it spelled out. And don’t come dressed too casually that you draw attention to yourself. And then have a great time. No sane person throws a party to make their guests miserable.

So God presumes a connection, a relationship, and for those still in denial, the potential for a relationship, with everyone he invites to the eternal wedding banquet. But don’t expect your invitation to arrive in the mail. The gospel passage we read is a parable, a descriptive story that contains many layers of truth about God and ourselves. The invitation God sends us comes clearest in the lessons of sacred scripture. In the prologue of the gospel of John we read, “The true light, which enlightens everyone … was in the world, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God.”[1] Jesus called disciples to follow him, and gave us care for each other, instructing us to love and forgive and strengthen one another. And before returning to the Father, he promised he would prepare a place for us, and come back, and take us to himself, so that we would be with him forever.[2]

If we still are not convinced God has a connection with us, we have only to recall that at baptism, God called us by name. And when in the Lord’s prayer and in our very own prayers we call on God by name, we cannot then still be strangers. God desires an intimate connection with us. God sent his Son Jesus into human history to share our very nature, to speak to us in his own voice, to heal our infirmities with his own hands, to give us his own flesh in the form of nourishment for our bodies, and to share with us everlasting life. And if we’re still missing the signals, it isn’t God’s fault for not trying. In fact, God is constantly trying to break through to us amid our distractions and our drama, our deep longing for solitude and our ever-present 24-hour news cycle, our search for meaning and our hardness of heart, to speak to us of his abiding love, calling us to reconciliation, to healing, and to communion with himself. We catch glimpses and snippets of God’s efforts in the compassion of those we love and in the kindness of total strangers, in the sublime beauty of prose and poetry and the searing intensity of rock-and-roll, in the gentle whisper of a soft breeze and in the devastation of earthquakes and storms, in the delicate handiwork of artists and in the ramblings of preachers.

Now about that proper wedding attire, I’ll say this. At baptism we received a white garment, the symbol of our Christian dignity, which we were instructed to keep unstained. And the way we live our lives shows whether or not we have heeded that instruction. Yep, few of us can say we’ve paid close attention. But all is not lost. God offers us an effective cleaning service and many opportunities for a fresh start. Recently, a few of our own parishioners have been called home to the eternal wedding feast. We never know when it comes our turn, but come it will. So it helps to always be ready, to quit putting off getting that wedding garment cleaned, and to keep it clean, and when that personal invitation arrives (and it comes often), to really take it seriously.

Rolo B Castillo © 2017

[1] John 1: 9—12.

[2] John 14: 2-3.