Gospel reflection for Oct. 15, 2023, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The parable of the king who invited guests to the wedding feast of his son, only to find that many of them had other things to do that they felt more important than attending, has immediate application to our lives today.
Concern over the lack of regular participation of people in religious services, and especially for Catholics attending Mass, is a matter of much discussion among religious leaders, as well as certain members of academia and the social sciences. To be fair, numbers are always skewed by the researcher, and some of the base data are inaccurate to begin with but suffice to say that weekly Mass attendance is somewhere around 20%. On a month-to-month basis this number is higher, as there are many people who attend Mass occasionally or even frequently, but not weekly. In any case, we all have more important things to do than to go to Mass.
For many the period of the lockdown during the recent pandemic broke a long-standing habit of Mass attendance. Some lost the rhythm all together, while others are happy to turn on their television or computer, enjoy a cup of coffee in their lounge clothes, and watch Mass on television. Perhaps not even Mass anymore, there are some very dynamic preachers on TV and well, it’s all the same.
This practice, this attitude, betrays the fundamental tenets of our faith and practice: we are called to an assembly of believers, sharing not statically but dynamically the presence of Christ in the signs and symbols, the community, the priest, the Word of God, and yes, physically and mysteriously, in the Eucharist itself.
Jesus is truly and physically present to us in the Eucharist. In a survey just released over 60% of Catholics who attend Mass regularly, affirmed that belief. Sadly, this means that over almost forty percent do not -- exactly -- believe such. And the number of those who identify as Catholics who believe so, is substantially less than that.
Alarmed by this the bishops of the US have inaugurated this period of Eucharistic Revival in the Church in our country for we all need to be reminded of the centrality of the Eucharist and the Mas in our lives.
The parable that Jesus uses here is a blunt reminder of the commitment we have to respond with generosity to the call of God in our lives.
But it is also clear that attending Mass, or participating in a communal service of prayer, is itself still not enough. There is one individual in this parable who attends the banquet, but who failed to wear the appropriate wedding garment. He was thrown out of the banquet. This is a reminder to us that we must be properly disposed to attending Mass and receiving the Sacrament. This means partaking in the Sacrament of Confession with regularity, and leading a life of faith, filled with prayer, and acts of charity to the other -- love of God; love of self; love of neighbor.
A life of faith might be at times challenging. Life gets busy, and the secular world does its best to silence the church bells on Sunday through the sound of the whistle nf the soccer official, the energy of the dance class, and the banter of national news talk shows.
We must prioritize the faith for ourselves and for our families in ways that, collectively, will push back on that noise, and enrich not only our faith, but our families and our lives.
The Lord invites us to the weekly banquet and we say, “sorry, no,” but not one of us wants to say no to “heaven.” What we say today is a foreshadowing of what we say to the Lord when it really matters.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.