14th Sunday after Pentecost, Aug. 26, 2018. 2 Cor 1:21-2:4; Mt 22:1-14

This is my last posting

The Gospel parable likens the kingdom of God to a wedding banquet, as the Scriptures so often do. The king has sent out the first invitations and now, as was the custom, sends the second invitation. We heard what those who were invited did, which prompted the king to send his servants out to invite anyone they found. It’s a bit puzzling that the one guest was put out of the banquet hall because he wasn’t wearing the wedding garment. The Scripture commentators suggest two possibilities: one, that the guests were only expected to have cleaned themselves up – not hard to do since water for washing was always provided at the door. The other, that they were expected to be wearing a clean white garment – maybe a bit much to expect of one who was brought in off of the street.

Regardless of that detail, the parable teaches us that we are invited to the banquet of the kingdom, even though we are not Jews, and that we should be wearing the garment of repentance – a change of heart and mind continued in a life of good deeds.

St. Paul writes that Christ has put his seal on us and given us the pledge of God’s Holy Spirit – the pledge of future grace and glory. In ancient times, letters and objects were sealed with the insignia of the sender or owner, usually in hot wax or in clay as a way of identifying themselves or of marking ownership

Each of us was sealed when we were baptized and chrismated. We are now invited to the banquet of the holy Eucharist. Receiving holy Communion properly means being in the state of grace.

We know, however, that not everyone who has been baptized and chrismated, and even who may be receiving Communion, is wearing the robe of repentance – in the state of grace. Our Church is a Church of both the good and the bad. God will sort it all out at the final judgment when those who are unworthy will not share in the banquet of the fully realized kingdom.

Pope Francis has noted that the Church is a field hospital after battle. “The Church today needs the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.” He further says, “It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds… And you have to start from the ground up.” “The most important proclamation is that Jesus Christ has saved you.” Above all we must show mercy.

This is what I preach to you today. God is a God of mercy, not damnation. If we truly try to live lives in accordance to the Gospel he will not throw us out of the kingdom. The Eucharistic Communion we share today is the appetizer of that messianic banquet. It leaves us hungry for more. It strengthens us to live in the kingdom now and for all eternity. Therefore, let us seek to live up to our dignity as baptized, chrismated Christians, sealed by the Holy Spirit. When we pray, “Thy will be done”, Let it be our commitment to do God’s will in all of our words and actions so that they will be an invitation to others to come to the banquet of God’s kingdom.

Now I segue to a personal note. I want you to know that I am not happy about this retirement. Were it not for my back problem I would not have considered retiring. I also didn’t expect that there would not be a resident pastor here at St. Nicholas. Had I known that, I may also have made a different decision. At the time it seemed the best way to go for the good of St. Nicholas Parish and I pray that it still will be. I will miss all of you and providing priestly ministry to you. We have cried together; we have laughed together. We have fasted and feasted together; we have planned and have fulfilled those plans. In all of this, we must – you and I – see where the hand of God is and what his will is for us. For me there is great uncertainty about my future but I know that God’s hand will guide me, eventually into a share in the banquet of his kingdom in heaven. I urge you also to have that faith that God will guide Father Jan and all of you so that someday you will enjoy that same heavenly banquet. May God bless all of you.


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