Young men who are making formal application for entrance into the Jesuits are interviewed by four different members of the Society. One such Jesuit interviewing me so many years ago asked if I thought I could give up my “dancing shoes”. He had been one of my English teachers in high school and had chaperoned some of our dances I guess. I assured him I could and I kind of have, especially these later years.
When I was a romancer-dancer, I had a sense I was gliding and bumping with someone. I have been recently at a few events where some are moving against some body, some where yonder. Ah, but I digress and editorialize.
Praying is a “with” experience. In listening to some persons sharing with me about their personal and liturgical prayer, it seems they are experiencing God yonder, a divine Some One against Whom they tussle, or maybe like the dancers lately, they are tussling with themselves.
Praying “with” is something like the way I enjoyed, what passed for, dancing. I never did wonder whether my dates enjoyed my singing along with the music, or my relating of deep insights about Latin grammar, or even stories about my daily life. They just kept on dancing, with. God does not even have to be asked to dance; God is with.
Our daily life moves through things, past things, after things, or with them all and the people God gives us to “with”. We are moving toward our next encounter at the Eucharist where Jesus “withs” us more intimately than we are to ourselves.
“On this mountain” God will be doing something mighty and surprising. All people will be invited to this banquet. The veil of death will be removed and all will see the goodness of the redeeming God.
“On this mountain” the hand of the saving God will rest with all reproaches wiped away. God will be seen, the God for whom all look for comfort. The banquet and the mountain are images of the person, the messiah, who will welcome, feed and guard all peoples.
Going up to the Temple, to the mountain upon which Jerusalem was planted, was the ultimate experience of the closeness of God. The temple and the city were pictured in the Jewish scriptures as Mother, Fountain, Garden, and a fortress providing security. What we hear today has all these themes together. These verses seem to be addressed to the spiritual hunger within the human heart. They answer the question about whether God, the Holy One, is passive to our common condition of longing, or will the Holy be active and provident. There is the strong sense of invitation to come to the Mountain in order to be presented with a food for the whole of human emptiness.
The “veil” of not-knowing-God, will be lifted from all the people, because of the abundance of God’s activity. True security will accompany those who receive joyfully of the goodness of God.
In the Gospel for this liturgy, Jesus again directs a stinging parable to the religious leaders. We listened to a similar indictment of these leaders last week as well. The image in the parable is a king who has prepared a huge banquet celebrating his son. Servants, (the prophets within the history of God’s relationship with Israel) are sent by the king to make invitations. These servants are met with some disinterest by those who continue their personal lives. Others mistreat and kill the king’s servants. Prophets in Israel did not have an easy time of it.
The king, in anger, destroys those who had refused the invitations and instead, sent his servants out into the common areas, streets and alleys to invite the “bad and the good alike.” There seemed to be plenty of them around, because the hall was full.
There is an ear-catching ending to this parable. The king finds one person attending the banquet who is not dressed properly. The king has this person bound and thrown out into the darkness outside where anger will be experienced. Why such selective brutality?
The “wedding garment” is the issue. I once, in high school, attended a dance at a Catholic girl’s school and was not allowed in, because I wasn’t wearing a suit coat. I had a white shirt, tie and expensive sweater on, but that wasn’t enough. We shook the dust off of our shame and shoes and never darkened their doors again. I have a feeling they never missed us either.
What is the “garment” in Matthew’s writing. Experts in scripture write that it is Baptism, proper incorporation into the “hall” or community. Others write that the “garment” is how the invitation has changed the called-person. Perhaps the invitee just sat there eating and drinking, but not relating selflessly with the others. Perhaps he was even taking food and drink from others. He might not have been acting as invited, but entitled. Perhaps he had forgotten that there was more than food and drink provided. There was a relationship extended which relationship would rearrange the fellows actions a bit. Perhaps he was not even wearing a white shirt and tie and expensive sweater.
The “elders and priests” knew that Jesus was telling them that He was the same invitation to change, because of the relationship to which they had always been invited and they didn’t want in. Jesus was telling them that they were getting tossed out, not because they were not baptized, but that they refused to let Him into their dance, because He was dressed differently than they expected or demanded.
“The rich suffer want and go hungry, but nothing shall be lacking to those who fear the Lord.” Ps. 34, 11
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