The Gospel is “good news,” but does anyone see any good news from today’s Gospel? Jesus describes his Heavenly Father as a King who invited guests to a wedding feast for his son. When they refused to come, he burned their city. Is this the God in whom we trust? Does God really become enraged, killing and burning those who oppose him. In fact, at least one city is in flames just north of us, and many will ask how God can permit this. Our hearts go out to those who have perished or lost homes in Santa Rosa and Napa. They must endure a great trial and neighborhoods? Nearly 6000 buildings have been reduced to ashes, one of which is Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, at which two of my friends teach. Many of you have told me that your children have lost their homes. Has God done this to us in retribution for our infidelity?
God permits losses such as these, and daily run-of-the mill adversities, so that we will know that here below we have no lasting city. In the end, we have only Him. He takes away our property, our health, even our lives, so that we will direct our hopes to nothing less than eternal life with him and His saints. It is a hard lesson to learn, but ultimately we must become supernatural, not content with anything merely natural. Everything natural, sooner or later, will burn. We are pilgrims on this earth, meant for heaven.
The Feast Begins Here
The good news is that, though we lose everything in this world, we never lose God’s invitation to the wedding feast. That feast begins here, at the Mass, and is perfected in the life of the world to come. “On this mountain, the Lord will provide a feast of rich foods and choice wines,” the Prophet Isaiah says in chapter 25. “Juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. He will destroy death forever, he will wipe away every tear, he will remove the reproach from every person….” Historically, the Prophet is referring to Mount Zion and the restoration of the Jerusalem temple after the Babylonian Captivity. But for us in San Francisco, God is talking about this mountain—these three steps leading up to the altar. This is the mountain, and here is the place, where God will provide rich food and choice wine, healing and joy for each of us.
Why don’t we see it?
How is it that we don’t we it? How is it that so few come to Mass, this wedding banquet for His Divine Son? As long as he have life in this world, God invites us to the feast. A Christian responds to God’s invitation simply by attending Holy Mass. The King, in the parable, burns the city of those who refuse his invitation. Jesus exaggerates the king’s anger to stress that indeed, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” We will burn if we do not attend the Mass, because without the Body of he Lord we are defenseless against the raging fires of evil in this world. With the Holy Eucharist, nothing can harm us. We are invincible because the almighty God lives within us. Many who lost lives and property in this devastating conflagration crowded into the cathedral in Santa Rosa. In the presence Church of the Eucharist, they have a home that no fire can destroy.
Are we doing enough to bring our loved ones back home? Not long ago I mentioned to a nice lady at Mass how much I miss seeing her husband. She spoke to him, gently, and he came back to Mass after many years. Sometimes it just takes a simple invitation, and if the time is right, the person will return to the sacraments. In other cases, as we all know, they ignore the invitation. From today’s Gospel, we should be convinced how serious it is to refuse the King’s invitation. The fact that 75% of Catholics in our country are not doing the one thing necessary to be saved from the fire should convict us. And yet we cannot force anyone to Mass. We do need to pray for them, and more, offer sacrifices for those who are trying to live their lives without God. This is what Our Lady of Fatima asked of the three children: make everything you do a sacrifice for sinners. Let’s do all we can to make the Sunday Mass the most important thing in our lives, and bring everyone we know to that saving banquet.