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What are you wearing to the party? | Word Alive

Mary Rose Bacani Valenti

Friday, October 9, 2020

Illustration courtesy of Chiara Valenti, age 9

What are you wearing to the party?

A reflection for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

by Mary Rose Bacani Valenti

Imagine being invited to the wedding reception of a national hero, who happens to be your childhood friend.  You’ve been looking forward to this event for a while, and you’re finally here.  It’s so exciting for you.
Then your friend’s father excuses himself from the dignitaries he’s talking to and approaches you.
As you’re about to congratulate him, he says, “Friend, how did you get in here dressed like that?”
You are speechless.
You were invited.  You’re almost a part of the family.  And these are your best clothes!
Now you’re being kicked out?  What’s going on?

Jesus’ Parable of the Wedding Feast intrigues me because a guest is disgraced (and punished severely) by the king; this man didn’t wear the proper garments to the wedding feast of the king’s son.  All that is said of this guest’s reaction is this:  “He was speechless” (Mt 22:12). Why couldn’t he say anything to defend himself?
So, what if I put myself in this man’s place?
Here I am, on my way to the wedding that God has invited me to, the wedding in Heaven that I so long for.  I’ve put on the sacraments, I’ve put on a life of grace, I tell God daily that I love Him, that I’m always trying to do His will.
I’m at the door of Heaven.  I look at Jesus.  I tell Him how happy I am to be finally here.  I’m about to embrace Him.
Then He stops me and says, “I’m sorry, but you don’t belong here.”

If Jesus thinks I don’t belong in Heaven, that doesn’t mean He doesn’t love me, because He cannot stop loving any one of us.  It must mean, then, that I didn’t love Him.  Yes, I went to church, prayed daily, and made sacrifices; but in the end, I must have forgotten about Jesus somehow.
Maybe that’s like a man and woman who fall in love and get married.  Then they have children.  Then they both get into their own responsibilities of managing the house, car, work, and school.  They like to share their intimate thoughts every day and give each other hugs.  Then they let it slip to just a few minutes of conversation daily.  After a while, they stop talking about what matters deeply to them and just become irritable towards each other.  Finally, they stop talking at all; they are too busy to realize they’re no longer living a true relationship of love.  The house is paid for, fancy cars, well-paid jobs, and scholarships for the kids.  They look successful.  But the marriage has fallen apart.
How about Jesus and me? Can that happen to us?  Then I thought about those days where I wake up and tell Jesus I love Him as I get out of bed.  Then I have that chance to spend ten minutes in prayer while the children eat breakfast.  But I think it’s more important to check my emails.  Then the day goes on with laundry and homeschooling, and I notice that my four-year-old needs to be held, but it is more important to make sure my fourth-grader gets math done, so I push the other one off.  Later that day, I notice that my husband needs to talk, but I want to work harder on studying for a course; I figure I’ll talk to him tomorrow and give him a quick hug instead.  That night, I have a chance to pray, but since everyone falls asleep early, I go straight into finishing up some research I’m doing.  I’m exhausted by 11 pm, so I do a quick and not very thorough Examination of Conscience; afterwards, I slide into bed.  I love you, Jesus, I say.  I worked hard today.  I fulfilled all my obligations as a wife and mother.  Good night.  And then it continues again the next day.
But had I done my Examination of Conscience wholeheartedly each night, I would have realized that, no, I did not “embrace” Jesus for each of those days, which could have continued into years.  I did not spend heart-to-heart time those mornings when He called me to spend ten minutes with Him.  Maybe then I would have had more love in my heart to respond to my four-year-old’s emotional needs.  And maybe I would have been able to help my husband sort out his issues and made him feel supported.  And if I did my Examination of Conscience first before the night drew on, I would have had more energy for a real conversation with God.  I would have opened up my soul to Him and spoken with Him about how my day unfolded.  Then I would have seen that I wasn’t loving Him that day.  I was just following my own plans and ideas of what I thought would be His will.  And then, I could have made a change for the better right away.  The same cycle would not have dragged on for years.  And the years wouldn’t have gotten worse.
Maybe the man without the wedding garment was speechless because he thought he had been loving Jesus all this time.  But unless we are truly intimate with Jesus, and on a daily basis, it might be too late before we figure out that we weren’t loving Jesus after all.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have this ending of my imagined scenario in Heaven instead?
I’m at the door of Heaven.  I look at Jesus.
I say, “Jesus, thank you for letting me know last night that I should say sorry to my husband about what I said.  I did do it right away, you know, before I went to bed.  And how I loved holding my little girl.  She told me how scared she was that I did not love her anymore.  Thank you for opening my heart to how much she needed me.”
Then Jesus looks at me and says, “I am always here for you.  I’m glad we had that time together, too.  Come in, and let’s continue talking.”

The readings for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, are
Isaiah 25:6-10a
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
Matthew 22:1-14

Mary Rose Bacani Valenti was a Producer/Host of Salt + Light Media from 2003 to 2011. She married Salt + Light Media editor Richard Valenti in 2009 and is now a homeschooling mother of four lovely girls. Because her daily schedule can be unpredictable, she sometimes does her Examination of Conscience while walking, nursing, or lying down!

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