The gospel this Sunday tells a parable about heaven and likens it to a great banquet. At the time of the telling, (2000 yrs. ago) there were very strict rules about hospitality and how not to offend either as a host or as a guest.
If you were hosting a banquet, you would make sure that proper invitations were delivered. Guests were greeted at the door with ceremonial hand and foot washings. Per-fume was applied to the head, and a kiss was bestowed upon their cheek. The finest food and wine was brought forth on the best table settings available. Everything was arranged so as to honor the guests and the occasion that brought them all together.
There were rules too for those invited to the dinner. Proper clothes were required for the occasion. (There was a “wedding garment” to be worn if you came to the reception. Mt. 22:14). The seating arrangements were specially set to honor each guest. Please sit where you are told. And of course, a guest was expected to enter into the joyful festivities . . . food, wine, conversation, music . . . as a sign of fellowship with the host whose deepest wish is that “you share my joy!”
These rules of hospitality apply in somewhat simpler form in the wedding celebrations of today. Consider the occasion when you dress your absolute best . . . a wedding, right? Why? I think it’s a way to “bring our best selves” – To add to the brightness of the occasion as best we can. The bible would say we “give glory” to the gathering.
So, what about going to Mass? (You knew this was coming, didn’t you?!) Are there things we do that add “glory” to the Sunday Eucharist? Of course there are.
- The way we dress is a sign of the importance we place on our weekly worship. We don’t treat it like a fashion show, but “cleaning up” is a good way to honor the Lord.
- The way we participate (or don’t participate) at mass . . . by responding to the prayers, by really listening to the readings and homily, by singing! (Yes, that’s right – singing.) “But I don’t sing.” Yes you do. You sang Happy Birthday at your niece’s birthday. So bring your Happy Birthday voice to mass.
- Lastly . . . and I have to tell you, this really bugs me . . . we need to stay at mass until it’s over. (I understand there are occasions when you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. I promise I will never ask you why you are leaving and always presume it is for a good reason.)
However, think for a second what we’re doing when we leave early. We have just received the Body of Christ who is our hope and our strength. We have just eaten together with our brothers and sisters. And now it’s “eat and run” or “let’s beat the traffic” or “the Bills are on”. The world comes flooding back to take away the peace of our worship. Why?
Picture yourself just finishing a great meal at some banquet. The Guest of Honor is about to speak words of encouragement to all who have come. And you decide to head out the side door to be home in time to watch “Dancing With the Stars”. Why? The world is always there waiting to pile on. Why do we leave so early the very place that helps us face the world?
Please stay with us. You’ll know when it’s time . . . “Go in peace, the mass is ended.”
God loves you . . . no matter what.