By Matt Hogg
In Matthew 22, Jesus tells His disciples a parable in which He likens the Kingdom of God to a wedding banquet prepared by a king for his son. The king sends out his servants to those whom he wishes to invite, but all ignore the servants and refuse to come. When the king sends his servants again, they are at best ignored and at worst beaten and killed for their persistence. After sending his army to exact justice, the king orders his remaining servants to go out into the streets and invite anyone they find to the banquet. The hall is filled and the feast begins, but as the king enters he sees a man not dressed in proper wedding attire. He questions the man, and, receiving no response, orders his attendants to “tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The meaning behind the parable is clear – be prepared for the Kingdom of Heaven at all times. Do not be caught in the inappropriate attire of sin and wear always the wedding attire of holiness. But there is something to be learned in the way that the parable is told as well. Why does Jesus use this particular metaphor, that of an improperly dressed guest, to convey His message?
Everyone understands that events of great significance like weddings call for an increased level of reverence. Because the human being is a unity of body and soul, one of the ways we show that reverence is with our attire. The Catechism states that the Mass, and specifically the Eucharist, is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). What event could be more significant than our participation in the heavenly liturgy, our reception of the Lord Himself in the Holy Eucharist? Our “bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest” (CCC 1387).
In the greater context of our lives of faith, the way we prepare for Mass is a relatively small thing. That said, we would do well to heed the words of our Lord when He tells us that “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.” We should do our best at Mass to have what we wear and how we present ourselves show our respect for the incredible weight and solemnity of the liturgy. As Catholics striving for excellence, how can we better prepare ourselves for the “moment when Christ becomes our guest?”