I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. St. Paul’s faith in Jesus Christ and his hope in the fulfillment of God’s promises helps him to persevere in any circumstance: when things are going well and when they are going badly; when he has an abundance or when he is in want; when he has a full stomach or when he has to go hungry. This is the kind of perseverance to which we are being called in the holy gospel today. In “The Parable of the Marriage Feast” (in Matthew 22), Jesus contrasts those who were first invited by the king and those he invited secondarily. The Fathers of the Church interpreted the first group as the Israelites, the first People of God. But because of Israel’s indifference and hostility — their rejection of God’s loving call — God (the king) instead invites the Gentiles, that is, us, to His wedding feast. However, unless we respond faithfully to the call we have received, we will be cast “into outer darkness” (Mt 22:13).
The “Marriage” in the parable today refers to the marriage of Christ, the Bridegroom, to His Church, the bride. And while this refers to the perfect union of Christ with His members at the end of time, we have a foretaste in the here and now through the holy Mass — the banquet of heaven and earth, of Christ’s Body and Blood. So, how do we prepare well for this feast? How can we avoid the fate of the first people invited? A wonderful way to prepare for holy Mass (to prepare to worthily to participate in the holy Sacrifice) is to pray the most holy rosary. Praying the rosary draws our minds out of the world and into the holy events of Christ’s life as reflected upon by the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Also, to spend some time in silence before Mass (to take a break from chatting), to give yourself plenty of time to arrive early at the church. (And even if you are in a rush to make Mass on time, to silence the radio in your car so as to silence your soul.)
One homily I will never forget was preached in Rome when I was in seminary. In seminary, we had Morning Prayer and Mass everyday at 6:15 a.m. A priest preached one morning: “If the Pope was celebrating Mass here this morning, would it change the way you prepared yourself for Mass?” My brothers and sisters, I ask you the same question: If you knew the Pope was coming to celebrate Mass at your parish church, would it change how you prepare yourself for Mass? Would you arrive earlier? Would you dress differently? (More modestly or less casual?) Would you be more excited? My brothers and sisters, the Pope is not coming to your parish church this Sunday, but Jesus Christ is. And He invites you to the greatest feast known to man. Are you prepared?
Reflection by Fr. Nolan Lowry, STL, Pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Centerville.