The White Wedding Garment of Grace
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
A Meditation upon Matthew 22:1-14
At that time, Jesus spoke to the chief priests and the Pharisees in parables, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like a king who made a marriage feast for his son. And he sent his servants to call in those invited to the marriage feast, but they would not come. Again he sent out other servants, saying, "Tell those who are invited, behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatlings are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast." But they made light of it, and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business; and the rest laid hold of his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. But when the king heard of it, he was angry; and he sent his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city. Then he said to his servants, "The marriage feast indeed is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy; go therefore to the crossroads, and invite to the marriage feast whomever you shall find." And his servants went out into the roads, and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; and the marriage feast was filled with guests. Now the king went in to see the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he said to him, "Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?" But he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind his hands and feet and cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth." For many are called, but few are chosen.
The white wedding garment mentioned in this parable stands for the purity of the Catholic faith that we have been given at Baptism. As we examine the prayers in the ancient Baptismal ritual, we see that, at the end of the Rite of Baptism, the newly baptized (neophyte) is told:
“Keep thy Baptism so as to be without blame: to keep the commandments of God, that when the Lord shall come to the nuptial banquet, thou may meet Him together with all the Saints in the heavenly court, and may have eternal life and live for ever and ever.”
In the Holy Eucharist, where we feast on the Body and Blood of Christ, we have a foretaste and pledge of the heavenly nuptial banquet that the Lord is preparing for us in heaven. In the parable of this Gospel, the King notices that a certain man at the feast does not have his white wedding garment on and so the King asks him:
“Friend, how did you come in here, not having on a wedding garment?”
Christ is teaching us that if we commit a grave sin, we have sullied our beautiful white garment–our life of grace in the Church. The place set for you at the heavenly wedding banquet is taken away. Your name card is ripped up. Your plate is removed, and your chair is taken away. Your place at God's table is forfeit. Then, you will be cast outside of the beautiful banquet hall where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Thus, we dare not approach Holy Communion in a state of mortal or serious sin. St. Paul warn us against making sacrilegious communions when he says:
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the chalice. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” (1 Corinthians 11:27).
If our souls are burdened by mortal sin, we need to be absolved by a Priest in sacramental confession. But in order to make a good confession we have to tell all our mortal sins. We cannot hide them if we want them to be forgiven and to be healed by the Divine Physician. Furthermore, if we do not have any intention to turn away from our sins, then our confession is insincere. But we should never fear to go to confession, because Jesus knows all your sins already and the Priest is there because he wants to be a minister of God’s mercy for you.
Every priest knows that people are weak and tempted and fall into sin easily. Priests know how it is hard to break habits of sin. But to make a good confession–to turn from the life of sin to the life of grace – we must have a spiritual conversion (metanoia) towards Jesus Christ. We must make a sincere and an honest confession to be healed by the Lord. If we had no purpose of amendment when we confess our sins, what is the point of going to confessional?
To profess our Catholic faith is not simply to recite the Creed. It is not simply to live the Ten Commandments and to follow the Precepts of the Church and to check them off like a shopping list. To be Catholic is to live the faith every day of your life, not just on Sunday morning. We need to approach the Altar of God’s Love healed by the hand of God, healed by the Sacrament of Confession. For then we approach the heavenly banquet, the Eucharist, well-prepared and with fervor.
As Catholics we to keep our wedding garment white and pure; we must not put it on for Sunday and then strip it off during the week. We must wear it before this Holy Altar; we must be good Catholics in at home and in our families – in our jobs, in our leisure activities, in our entertainments and in the public arena.