Think for a moment about a wedding- perhaps you think of your own wedding, or the last wedding you went to. What do you think about? Is it the genuine love and excitement of the couple- the bride in her beautiful white dress and the groom in a nice tuxedo. Perhaps you think about the vows in which the man and woman promise to love and honor each other, through good times and bad, for the rest of their lives. Through which the couple are forever united to each other, where they vow to give themselves- body and soul- out of love to each other. The 2 become 1- what an amazing thing that happens at weddings.
In our Gospel, Jesus gives a parable in which a king plans a wedding for his son, and all the invitations were sent out. Can you imagine receiving an invitation to the wedding of the king’s own son- what a royal and grand event it would be. The best invitation, from the highest person imaginable, to the greatest event. Wouldn’t you be so honored that you were invited that you’d RSVP ‘yes’ right away? Wouldn’t you drop anything else you had planned that day, and no matter what happened you would go to this amazing event?
In our 1st reading, Isaiah prophecies about such an amazing event. “The Lord of Hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines. He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face; the reproach of his people will be removed. On that day it will be said, ‘Behold our God. This is the Lord for whom we looked’”. Don’t you and I long for that day, long for such an event when all those promises come true?
My brothers and sisters, you and I are invited every Sunday to that event- The best invitation, from the highest Person imaginable, to the greatest event. Friends, every Mass is a wedding. A wedding in which God marries his bride, the Church. But it is not just a general wedding in which God marries all of humanity. But it is our wedding- yours and mine. In every Mass, God comes down to earth and says to you and I- take and eat- ‘This is My Body’- ‘This is My Blood’. In every Mass, the sacrifice of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus in which death is destroyed is made present. We truly Behold our God for whom we looked. But not only look, we are able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ inside of our bodies. When we receive Holy Communion, the 2 become 1. That is why it is called Holy Communion. Every Mass is our wedding- and every Eucharist we receive- is the consummation of our vows. God says to us- ‘This is my body’- I am yours, I give myself completely to you out of love. And we say, AMEN,- I too will give myself completely to you, my God, out of love. Absolutely amazing, isn’t it! But yet, I also know the Eucharist can seem almost too amazing to be true; it can be so hard to believe and accept.
In the parable of our Gospel, it says no one accepted such an honored invitation. Upon receiving such an amazing invitation from the king, everyone just threw it in the trash. Our Gospel says that they just went to their homes and their businesses- in other words, everyone went on with their own way of life and ignored the invitation. (Pause) Their response reminds me of another people’s response.
In John chapter 6, Jesus says, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. For my flesh is true food and my blood true drink”. However, many of his disciples who were listening said, “this saying is hard; who can accept it?”. Knowing that some would not believe, Jesus said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” Jesus acknowledges that His Real Presence is hard to accept, it is hard to believe in the Eucharist. But even though it is hard, Jesus doesn’t change what he said. He doesn’t say it is just a symbol, he doesn’t say he just meant it as a figure of speech. “And as a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life”.
Recent studies show that only 27% of Catholics believe the Eucharist is the actual Body and Blood of Christ. Sadly, when Jesus said, “Amen, Amen I say to you”, 73% of Catholics say he really didn’t mean it. And although Jesus re-iterated and confirmed that He did mean what He said, it is still too hard for 73% of Christians to take Jesus words to be true. And even though Christians say they believe in the Resurrection and Ascension, it is still too hard to believe Jesus could actually do what He said by giving His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. My brothers and sisters, for the first 1500 years of Christianity, up until the Protestant Reformation- 500 years ago, every Christian believed in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. But now, 40% of people say that one can still be a good Catholic without believing that in every Mass, the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Christ. This has been the teaching of the Church from the beginning, it is as true for you and I today as it was for the first believing disciples. God still wants to marry us. God still wants to unite ourselves with Him. God still wants us to be in Communion with Him. And so, God still gives us His Body and Blood at every Mass. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I stand here and apologize for all times priests and bishops didn’t proclaim the truth loud and clear from the pulpit. I apologize for all the times they led you doubt by how irreverently they may have celebrated the Mass. And I, your Pastor, here and now, vow to do all I can to make this truth known and alive in every heart- for the very name and identity of this parish depends on it.
But if you do believe the Eucharist to be true, perhaps you also should apologize, for every person is invited- but sometimes we act as if it is no big deal. If we really knew what we were saying ‘no’ to every time we missed Mass by our own lack of priority or effort, we would be ashamed. We act as if it is no big deal by how many ways we don’t drop everything to accept this invitation, by saying we are too busy doing other more important things- as if there was anything more important. Look at how you dress for Mass, does it shows that Mass is the most important thing you do on a Sunday, or not? If every one of your loved ones who were raised Catholic but has since fallen away really knew what they were leaving, they wouldn’t have left. Every Protestant who deeply loves Jesus, if they knew to this extent is God expressing His love and desiring Communion with us, they too would become Catholic. If others see that this opportunity is no big deal to us who are Catholic and do receive, then shame on us, and we should apologize for not speaking the truth. All are invited- have you and I invited them?
All are invited, but as our Gospel parable reveals- not everyone can partake. In the parable, Jesus notices a man who was not wearing the proper attire in the wedding feast. Everyone who is not in Communion with God and His Church either because they are not Catholic or because they have unrepented Mortal Sin- should not act as if everything is OK and receive Holy Communion. This man in the parable came to the feast but was not showing that he knew where he was or what he was doing. What are you thinking about, if anything, as you are in line to receive Communion- do you know where you are and what you are doing? I heard that as recent as last week someone was chewing gum. Countless people when proclaimed- “The Body of Christ” don’t respond with AMEN (which means I believe). Many people do not make a profound bow from the waist when they are next in line for Communion. Many people who receive on the hand are so casual with how they have their hands open, it is hardly a throne. Many people do not or half-heartedly genuflect to the Tabernacle when they enter or exit the pew. In all these ways, we too act as if we do not know where we are or what we are doing. And can I encourage, especially parents carrying a child, in order to help prevent the Host or any particles to fall on the floor in the transfer, to receive on the tongue. And if you can and would like to receive while kneeling, please do- it shows you know what you are doing. Finally, I still remember my first Mass at Franciscan University of Steubenville, after Mass I stood up to get out of the pew as I was so accustomed to doing, but all the other students knelt in prayer for a few minutes after Mass. They really knew what they were doing, and Whom they had just received, and they wanted to give thanks a little more. In Communist China, after her parish Church was ransacked- the tabernacle thrown down and Hosts spilled onto the ground. Every night, a 10-year-old girl on her knees made her way on her knees through the shadows past the guard. There she prayed in Adoration for an hour before picking up an Host with her tongue- for they weren’t allowed at the time to receive in the hand. But on the last night, after she consumed the last Host- she accidently made a noise and was killed on the spot. Would you and I do that? Would your 10-year-old do that? In all these ways, we either show we do or do not know Who and what we are receiving. And if we don’t, we will not become the Corpus Christi we are meant to be- we won’t become Whom we consume. And if we don’t, how would anyone else know they are invited to accept the greatest invitation ever given- that they are invited to express their vows and experience the consummation of their wedding with the Living God.BACK TO LIST