No earthquake here. At the Synod, the Church teaches us how to dress for the feast.

No earthquake here. At the Synod, the Church teaches us how to dress for the feast. October 13, 2014

pastoral earthquake

Yesterday’s second reading at Mass had two major ideas:

(1) God wants everyone.
(2) Not everyone wants God.

In this parable, the king has invited all the expected, honored guests to his son’s wedding, but they not only refused his invitation, but abused and killed the messengers who invited them.

This  is old news — as old as Adam and Eve, as old as the War in Heaven — and would not even be a story at all if the king didn’t then decide to do something scandalous and unexpected:  he invites people who normally don’t get invited to the king’s house:

Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.

Good and bad alike, meaning cohabitating couples, second-marriaging couples, and people in love with a gay partner (not to mention people in “irregular” situations less familiar to first world Catholics! Remember, the Synod is for everyone, not just the Northern Hemisphere). People who aren’t living up to Church teaching, but who nevertheless want in to that gorgeous, beautiful, nourishing, splendid party hall, because they know a good thing when they see it.

The feast is ready. The king has got all this good stuff, and he wants to share it with someone, so why not open the doors wider? This is exactly what the king in the parable does does.

But then there’s this:

But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

This is the second part of what the Church has always taught: God invites, and we decide how far we want to respond to that invitation. What is implied in the story is that the guest knew very well that he wasn’t dressed properly, and doesn’t even have an excuse. He chooses  not to come prepared, or to make any changes. When we make no effort, show no signs of being willing to change or even defend our actions, then why should you be there?

This, too, is the message coming out of the Synod. An invitation is for something. It’s a beginning, and way to get people to put their foot in the door so we can figure out what they need next, and what is needed from them. If you do not invite them, you will never get to that point.

The mid-term report described as an “earthquake” is nothing of the kind. It’s a reassertion of the constant, consistent teaching of the Church, and even the constant, consistent teaching of God the Father toward His wayward people: Come to Me. Please, come to me. Yes, I want you to change, and I will demand things of you. But we can’t get anywhere unless you come to Me.

And once you do accept the invitation, the Synod is saying that pastors and deacons and RCIA directors and anyone involved with catechesis are to explain fully what it means to be a member of the Church — keeping in mind that probably the majority of Catholics in the world have almost none of even a basic understanding of what marriage is for, what sex is for, or what life is for. But a good many of them have good intentions, want to be good to each other, want to raise healthy families, and want to be loved. So that’s where you start: with the invitation.

The  Archdiocese of Philadelphia has published an official teaching document called Love Is Our Mission.  It’s a short book designed to prepare us for the upcoming World Meeting of Families, and illuminates contentious issues like gradualism and the pastoral care of divorced Catholics. According to Archbishop Chaput, this catechetical document has ten steps:

 It starts with the purpose of our creation and moves into the nature of our sexuality; the covenant of marriage; the importance of children; the place of priesthood and religious life in the ecology of the Christian community; the Christian home as a refuge for the wounded heart; the role of the Church; and the missionary witness of Christian families to the wider world.

So, this is what the Church is doing: it is inviting people to the feast, and it is instructing them in how to “dress” the soul, how to behave as an honored guest so they can participate in the feast — so they can follow up on the invitation. In short, it is teaching us how to be a Catholic.

The Church, at the Synod, is doing its job, its one and only job of inviting and instructing. Tell me again how this is a problem — how it ought, instead, to be skipping straight to the “waling and gnashing of teeth” part that so many Catholics seem  to favor.

If a cohabitating couple shows up for a baptism, what do we do? Or if a couple with an un-annulled second marriage, or if a gay couple turns up wanting to lead some ministry, what do we do? Do you slam the door? No, we say, “Come in, and let’s talk about what you have right so far. Then we can figure out what’s  next.”

In other words, practice basic human psychology, never mind basic human decency.

I am well aware that people can twist the document to mean whatever they want to mean. If they think the Church should just be nice and friendly and not be so picky about all those stupid rules, then that is what they will see in the Synod. If they think the Church should be stern and exacting and spend most of its time driving people away because they’re not holy enough, then that is what they will see in the Synod.

This twisting of words, too, is constant and consistent. People have twisted the words of Jesus Christ from the moment the sound waves were still dissipating into the atmosphere of Jerusalem. But if you read the entire document, if you pay close attention and don’t get all your information from one ideological side or the other, it will be clear that all the Synod is saying is what the Church has always said: invite whomever you find, so you can teach them how to be good guests, so we can all enjoy the feast together.

Tell me again how this is a problem. And while you’re at it, tell the king.


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  • Rebecca Fuentes

    One priest I hear talking about that scripture said that, when a king gave a feast like that, the king also provided garments for all the guests, so there really, really was no excuse to not show up properly dressed.

    • HenryBowers

      Unless a layperson says: “You don’t need a garment.”

      • I’m reminded of an old Arabic saying I learned from Turkish friends long ago: Eat for yourself; dress for others.

    • Ken

      Yes, the church is trying to get those people the garments by opening it’s doors to them. The expectation isn’t that everyone is going to be perfectly dressed before they enter the church. If that was the case there would be no church.

    • I have no idea where that idea comes from: “when a king gave a feast like that, the king also provided garments for all the guests”

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        I wish I knew. I remember the sermon because when I was a child, I pictured the king inviting homeless people, who had nothing and nowhere to prepare, and then punishing them because they weren’t properly dressed. It seemed like a set-up and didn’t make sense to me. The priest who gave the sermon explained that the guests were more than dinner guests, they were house guests and would have had a place to properly prepare, clothes to wear provided, etc., which made more sense to me. We are invited in, given a place to prepare within the confessional, grace from the sacraments, etc.

      • Anna

        Not necessarily a king; just whomever was getting married. Along with the several-day feast, that wedding garment was also given.

        • I hear this from time to time but without any attribution, and only in the context of this story.

  • Episteme

    If all the iterations of couples described are the ones brought in and accepted, I can only assume that we single-single folks are the ones “undressed” (not ‘wearing’ our partner) — well, time to get ready for the wailing and gnashing! *grabs flashlight for the outer darkness*

    I actually really liked the relatio for all that it does (those few parts that seemed muddled to me struck me as issues of being a hasty unofficial translation), although all the parts where I got excited about pastoral support of folks in my circumstances ended in my hopes being crushed when I’d discover two sentences later that the Church still only suggests pastoral support for those who show up already in a pair.

    I still hold out some small hope that the World Meeting and/or Ordinary Synod realize that the modern “family”should extend beyond genitality. I probably shouldn’t, but faith does that to a man…

    • We adopted two kids. Family, modern or not, extends beyond….

    • MightyMighty1

      I don’t understand what you’re saying here. You’re hoping that the Church will renege on all that God has revealed about making humans for heterosexual pairings and lifelong fidelity? How could she? What possible argument besides, “Lots of people really want us to lighten up on chastity, so we’re going to,” could there be? Loving and accepting people does *not* include encouraging them to embrace something that is inherently bad for them.

  • Tom

    Calm?! Why should we be calm when the Synod is going to BLOW UP THE ENTIRE WORLD?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  • Susan Windley-Daoust

    So spot on. Thank you.

  • Blobee

    So, the question becomes, what does “properly dressed” really mean? The invitation is not the wedding. Lots want to come to the wedding (heaven) but some want to come as they are, unchanged, enjoying the feast and celebration, without preparing themselves; without cleaning up and changing themselves. God determines what is appropriate dress. And that’s the sticking point for many people.
    The reality is, here on earth, the Church tells us what God will consider properly dressed, but the rebels want to dispute that, and make the Church back down. But to do so would be disingenuous and a disservice to anyone wanting truly to be properly dressed, because it’s going to matter once we go to the wedding.

  • niknac

    Some people have a hard time with believing. Some can’t get a handle on their behavior. Clearly, tolerance is your issue.

    • Baron Kaza

      Tolerance is not a prerequisite for the saving of ones soul

      • HenryBowers

        Yes it is. Tolerance with one’s self, lest one goes crazy.

        • Baron Kaza

          Only to people who are a slave to their passions

          • HenryBowers

            That doesn’t sound like a healthy spirituality to me. It sounds like a recipe for depression and mental illness. What was your upbringing like? Have you been forced to be strong, for too long?

          • Baron Kaza

            My upbringing was very healthy and loving with strong Catholic faith. I don’t buy into the world’s sentimentality of “feelings”..I reject tolerance completely, it the notion for those who will or cannot decide what is moral out of fear of offending, me I do not care who I offend… Smash Tolerance, perhaps you should learn to carry your cross

          • HenryBowers

            We should not tolerate abuse. Jesus asked, “Why did you hit me?” Martyrs need to be striving toward their calling, or they are just unlucky (and possibly complicit) victims.

          • Baron Kaza

            Victims of what… what a bunch of modernist/liberal garbage…actually we should never tolerate tolerance

          • HenryBowers

            Prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God, because Francis is going to improve the absolution protocol. You sound like a sadistic Antichrist.

          • Baron Kaza

            Yes repentant prostitutes will enter heaven, what you want is the Church’s blessing to sin and then to count on Christ’s mercy. Here is what Pope Francis is bringing:

            “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a
            Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a
            Cross.”

            Not a single mention or repentance of sin (something you don’t believe In) nor carrying your cross or cooperation with God’s grace…..Smash tolerance

          • HenryBowers

            You have no evidence for that; you are acting the fear-monger. Divorce is a terrible cross, and sometimes the first marriage really was faux in a way that’s hard to prove. Of course many Catholics will abuse clerical-ecclesial generosity, but that’s nothing new, and it should not be the pressing concern of the sheep. The Synod is exposing the raging Pharisees, those incredulous that 5-o-clock loafers get paid the daily wage. Do I miss Benedict? Of course, but he wasn’t respected, and a change of discipline (always a necessary evil) is not a change of doctrine. You need to take a long look at your pearl-less heart, and then do something for Christ besides point out the wounded.

          • Baron Kaza

            I find it so tragic that those who really strive to listen to the Church and live by its precepts are considered heartless, neo-pelagian, cold. Meanwhile the sodomite is already saint just for being gay, we need to be “pastoral” in his sodomite desires and understand the Church has been wrong all along, gays have gifts to offer the Church just for being gay. I detest the gay influence in the clergy and they need to be purged out once and for all. Gays a blight on the human race

          • HenryBowers

            What a deplorable thing you just said.

          • Baron Kaza

            Oh no is the overly sensitive modernist offended by the Truth. Everywhere gays organize the destroy, as they have destroyed the West. Mother Russia knows how to deal with this disease so called gay pride marches are met brutal violence as they should. Evil need to be destroyed.. Crush Tolerance

          • HenryBowers

            Opposing a movement is different from opposing people of a certain inclination because they have that inclination. We should support them while opposing their politics.

          • Baron Kaza

            Yes and this inclination has made in roads into Church that was directly responsible for the pederast priests sex scandals. May this virus be brutally and without mercy be ripped out of Holy Mother Church

          • HenryBowers

            Good luck, we had Judas even when Christ was CEO without a vicar.

  • Baron Kaza

    The spin cycle is in over drive

  • HenryBowers

    The only cause for consternation about the synod is the imagined conflation of roles between the clergy and the laity. Priests will do what priests will do. They did what they wanted under Benedict, and they will continue to do so. We sheep with a stronger grip against a certain stray-pattern are to be the bad cops.

  • Mamatoafew

    Exactly.

  • If you’ve been welcomed and invited and can’t be bothered to dress right, it’s the church’s job to point that out, too.

  • Aemcpa

    I have a problem with this document even being made available for public consumption. It’s the ecclesiastical equivalent of the conference room whiteboard after a brainstorming session. It isn’t something to be defended or derided, and it has no more theological or juridical weight than does my son’s journal.

  • donttouchme

    Yeah but. Some of them are trying to work the angles and change Church teaching without actually changing Church teaching; that’s the strategy.

  • Thibaud313

    Hi, Simcha !

    Isn’t your face a little red that you unequivocally defended a Document that
    has, in the past few days, been heavily criticized by many, many, MANY
    not-crazy people, including Jimmy Akin
    (http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/good-news-from-the-synod-of-bishops-12-things-to-know-and-share),
    Pope Benedict’s personal secretary, the president of the Polish Conference of
    Bishops, and, more importantly, many of the Synodal Fathers themselves
    (including Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Vingt-Trois, every single African bishops
    there,…) ? And now that we know that the Document actually only reflected the
    opinion of about half a dozen Synodal Fathers, against the opinion of 90% of
    the other Synodal fathers ? And that the leader of ultra-minority position,
    Cardinal Kasper, is making very weird, and borderline racist comments about the
    African bishops (http://wdtprs.com/blog/2014/10/card-kaspers-observations-about-africa/) ?

  • niknac

    It is God who decides who to let into his presence, not for some promiscuous, Gay bath house lounging bishop, to smite them down because they aren’t dressed properly.