Posted October 13, 2014 in Word Made Flesh:

by Fr. Pat McNulty.

Here’s a reflection on Matthew 22:1-14, the gospel for October 12th. What did you wear to Mass last Sunday?

If you found the following advertisement in the Sunday edition of your newspaper, what would you suppose they were trying to sell? "Where the breeze is always fresh, the beaches splendid, and the mood is calm and inspired. Prepare for a never-ending weekend."

Is it an ad from a travel agency? Nope. How about a real estate ad? Nope. Ahhhh, how about an attempt to get people back to an area once spoiled by toxic waste? Nope.

Give up? OK. You probably won’t believe this, but it’s an advertisement for … men’s clothing. That’s right; it’s an ad for men’s clothing.

The full ad on the website reads, "This lifestyle brand is elevating the act of relaxation throughout all aspects of our lives: where the breeze is always fresh, the beaches splendid, and the mood is calm and inspired. Prepare for a never-ending weekend."

(Oh, really? Do you take credit cards?)

There is probably no realm of human enterprise more eccentric than that of the fashion industry. We are obsessed with style. We pay megabucks to be dressed just right whether we want to look stately and elegant or casual and scraggly. No matter: everywhere we go, we must go in style. Well, almost everywhere.

It seems one of the primary exceptions these days is the weekend Mass. There many people seem less and less aware (or concerned) about being "dressed for the occasion." Or, to use the language of the parable in Matthew’s gospel, more and more people are coming to the weekend Mass, to the Eucharistic Banquet, "without a wedding garment."

In an age where style is king, why is it that one of the least stylish events in many of our lives is the Sunday Mass or its Saturday vigil?

I find part of the answer to that question hidden deep in the parable about the wedding garment in Matthew’s Gospel.

Here we have a man thrown out of a wedding banquet because he wasn’t dressed for the occasion. This is a bit puzzling, at first. After all, the servants were sent out to invite everyone to fill the hall. That’s what the king wanted, and that’s exactly what they did.

So what’s this about someone not "dressed for the occasion"? Hell-o! The servants "beat the bushes" and brought in everyone they could find. Why should there have been any surprise that someone was not dressed for the occasion.

Well, it was the custom in those times for the groom and bride to provide a wedding garment for their guests.

Using that analogy, Christ then makes it clear that when someone is invited to the banquet, invited into his Kingdom, they need to respond appropriately to where they are and why they are there, which is symbolized by being dressed for the occasion.

If the man had been paying attention to where he was and why he was there, he would have naturally put on the garment provided by the groom and bride.

But because he was not, a fact made evident by how he was dressed, the king had him bound up and cast out.

Now if we look at the Eucharistic Banquet of the Lord, Mass on the weekend, with the eyes of this parable, we will know that the primary lesson is not about what we wear when we come to that Mass.

However, part of the primary lesson is about whether we are aware of where we are when we come to Mass. And what we wear can be an indication of that awareness or lack of it.

What? So now we are going to have a dress code for the weekend Mass? No.

And yes, the weekend does represent a time when we can often be less concerned about dress-codes, a time when we can "let our hair down," (or our beard) and relax a bit.

But, at the same time, perhaps, in an age gone crazy with style, it is time for us to think about what kind of message we are giving about this Heavenly Banquet on earth by how we dress.

No, the blessings of the Eucharist are not dependent upon what we wear. We have had some awesome examples of this of late—in large outside Eucharistic gatherings, such as the Eucharistic Congress and World Youth Day, where people sit on the ground in all sorts of weather, and they are filled with the blessings of the Eucharist no matter how they are dressed.

But, at the same time, one does get the distinct impression that the casualness often evident at the weekend parish Mass is becoming a visible sign of something deeper.

Many of us are already "bound up and cast out" from the Eucharistic Banquet because even though we are still there physically, we are somewhere else mentally, somewhere more casual and entertaining, and how we are dressed gives ample evidence of this—at least to the King. How did you get in here without a wedding garment?


How then should we dress for this weekend Eucharist? I was going to suggest that you take a look at my wedding garment website, the title of this article, but I am sure most of you have figured out already that there is no such website as Yes, it was a cheap stylish attempt to get your attention! Ho hum.

But have no fear: we don’t need it because of Matthew’s Gospel where Christ himself is teaching us something in an age where casual is king and style is often determined by www dot something.

And although Christ is not telling us what to wear to Mass on the weekend, he is telling us something about how to be present at that Mass.

And what we are wearing might help us understand why we are sometimes not really there mentally at all but bound up and cast out somewhere else.

Perhaps it’s because, in our hearts, we are not "dressed for this occasion" and our bodily attire is a sign of it. Perhaps in the end, the answer is that we should be much more concerned about "dressing up" for Sunday Mass! Perhaps doing so would help us remember that what we are doing when we attend Sunday Mass is something very profound. Perhaps.

See you in church.


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