Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

"Be Clothed in Christ's Garments of Righteousness, Virtue, Humilty and Love"
Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
October 9, 2011
Year A

In 1852, English painter William Hunt captured on canvas his own personal conversion to Christianity and called it: The Light of the World. It shows the large wooden door of a country cottage, which is located on the edge of a forest, far away from other houses or towns. Around the door weeds have grown up, and the landscape looks abandoned, uncultivated, and hostile. It is nighttime. In the darkness, the full moon forms a halo around the head of Christ, who is standing in front of the door. He holds a lantern in his left hand, and with his right hand he is knocking on the door. In this painting, the cottage symbolizes the soul, the door is human freedom, and Christ is the light that brings hope and meaning to the darkness within. It's a haunting painting in many of its details. First of all, it's counterintuitive to have a stranger wandering the woods at night carrying a light. Usually, the light would come from inside the place of residence, and the strange wanderer would be seeking relief from the darkness outside. But another detail is even more eloquent: no doorknob or handle can be seen on the outside of the door. This implies that the door can only be opened from within. Christ is knocking on the outside patiently waiting to bring his light into the house, but only those on the inside can let him in.

That which Hunt was trying to convey in his famous painting gives insight into today’s Gospel – the meaning of which centers on questions regarding the wedding garment. It was the one thing necessary, in addition to the initial invitation, to partake in the festivities. There is no clear evidence for having to wear special attire for such a gathering but it seems that clean clothes, rather than soiled clothes or rags was in view. The idea was that folks that were invited, even last minute, were still expected to change into appropriate dress before showing up. But it could also be understood that the host provided the wedding garment. In either situation, this particular guest refused to come dressed properly. How did he get in? He could have snuck in without being invited, perhaps he was invited but didn’t care about the bridegroom or the celebration but was just in it for the food and drink, whatever his reason for being there, one fact remains, he had no relationship with the bridegroom and so had no reason to be there in first place.

The disrespectful guest knows that he must change his clothing and yet refuses. He knows the customs of the time and yet chooses to follow his own path. Even with such delightful feast set before him, he still refuses. The king’s response to the guest’s silence – “many are invited but few are chosen” reminds us of the freedom we all have to choose to follow in the footsteps of our Lord, that we have been given the gift of free will, God never imposes Himself upon us, He does not force us to accept His teachings and commandments. This is one of the most terrifying aspects about the gift of freedom – the option to refuse, to reject Him. This is what so many public figures in our generation are doing when they say that they are Catholic, but then support atrocities like abortion and vote against traditional marriage and family values and the so-called “Death with Dignity Act” which is nothing more than physician-assisted suicide. And it can also happen to us when we approach Christ on our terms, when we set our own plans and agenda. We want the good things of the kingdom but not enough to break our selfish, sinful habits. But the ancient Fathers of the Church remind us that the wedding garment represents the righteousness of Christ – grace, charity, the sacraments – and is given to those who chose to follow accept this gift of the righteousness of Christ, they chose His grace, His love, they choose the path of humility and sacrifice.

The new translation of the consecration at Mass highlights this very fact. The new text reads: “For this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Catholic scholar and author Edward Sri explains that: “on a basic level, the new translation points to the reality that while Jesus died for all, not everyone chooses to accept this gift. Each person must choose to welcome the gift of salvation and live according to His grace, so that he or she may be among “the many” who are described in this text.” This is precisely what Hunt depicts in his painting. The fact that there is no doorknob on the outside and that Christ brings to us His light, His peace, and His grace in order to scatter the darkness that lies within our souls. Yet, it is up to us to choose to open the door, to accept His invitation and respond to Him. We must not be naïve, however, to accept this gift is to accept the cross. To drink from the chalice of the Lord is to drink of His suffering and sacrifice. I’m sure there is not one person in this church who is without ever having had to sacrifice for another person at some point or another. This is the righteousness of Christ – self-sacrifice, self-giving, selflessness for this is what it means to be clothed with the garment of love.
In this celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus knocks at the doors of our hearts. He embraces us with His gift of peace, His virtue, and His love. May we have the grace to freely choose to let Him in, to live as committed disciples and so be clothed in His garment of righteousness, virtue, humility, and love.




Fr. Jon Reardon


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.




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