In today’s Gospel parable, we hear of a King who is throwing a wedding feast for his son, but some people don’t want to come… Why would anyone turn down an invitation to come to a wonderful dinner, with rich foods and choice wine? Can you imagine anyone saying no!?
Well, actually it’s pretty easy to imagine even in our day and age… whenever I hear of a couple getting married in the fall, the first thing I think about is if either Iowa or Iowa State is playing football that day. I used to have season tickets.
I gave up my tickets when I entered seminary, so it’s not that I am super worried about it myself anymore, in fact, I had a wedding reception the other night during the Iowa State and Oklahoma game and I missed the whole thing!
But I made the right choice, the reception was awesome and I didn’t mind missing my Cyclones pulling off the upset. Not too much at least, I got over it!
So I am always worried for the couple who plans a fall wedding because I know inevitably some of their guests are going to choose to go to the game, or just stay home and watch it even, instead of going to the wedding…. well it hasn’t been an issue with the Hawkeyes this year, but it might be soon.
Anyway, we can see where our own interests can keep us from doing something good. In short, this is an analogy for sin in our lives, when our selfish desires creep into our decision making, and we choose something that is lesser in the grand scheme of things, just doing what is most convenient for ourselves.
If we stop and think about it, what is more important, being one of 75,000 in a stadium, or one of 250 in a reception hall? It is obvious from the outside, but from our own personal view sometimes it doesn't always seem so obvious.
See God has the broader view in mind, he can see what is better for us in the grand scheme of things, but often we can’t, we think too small. Our selfish desires clouds our vision, we choose the path of least resistance, whatever is most convenient, but we just can’t see what God sees.
God sees an opportunity to bless us, but we see this invitation as limiting our freedom. We want to be free to go watch Iowa play, but suddenly this wedding limits our freedom, and we are forced to go to this wedding dinner…
But my take is that this isn’t a loss of freedom at all, rather, it is God beckoning us to do something for our own good. Freedom is not doing whatever we want whenever we want... Freedom is having the ability to do what is right. Freedom is having the ability to do what we ought to do.
One example of this, since it is Right to Life month, is contraception. Maybe you have never thought of contraception as a Right to Life issue, but I assure you it is. Consider the church’s teaching.
Contraception is not allowed in marriage because a woman's body has a natural God-given cycle, so the Church encourages couples to talk to each other, to communicate their feelings of having more children each month, and if they decide they are not ready, the Church asks them to abstain from the marital act for about a week.
Does this limit a woman's freedom? Does it limit a man’s freedom? My take is that it simply allows a man and a woman who love each other to work with God, in His vineyard like I’ve talked the last couple of weeks, to communicate with each other, and to make that choice to have marital relations in the fertile period only when they desire to conceive or would be okay with conceiving new life.
Now, this doesn’t mean that at other times of the month, they shouldn’t be open to conception. I’ve heard of a few women where the doctors look at their chart and say that there is no reason they should have conceived but they did. Married people are still supposed to be open even when conception is not our plan. It’s even in the wedding vows.
And this is why it is a Pro-Life issue. When a couple is not open to life, and they get pregnant, what is the plan B? Of course, abortion, they already weren’t open to new life to begin with.
So the Church, back in 1968, was struggling with how to direct their flock in regards to this issue. Every other mainline Christian denomination, starting with the Anglican Church in 1931, began to allow it, but the Catholic Church held fast, until 1968.
Lots of theologians were saying the Church should allow it, way more priests and bishops and theologians were for allowing artificial birth control than were against it, and Pope Paul VI was listening to all of their advice, trying to figure out what to do as the chief shepherd.
Much to many people’s surprise, on July 25, 1968, the Pope released a teaching called Humanae Vitae which said the Church would not allow contraception, and it was very much prophetic in saying what would happen to the world if contraception was allowed.
Saint Pope Paul VI boldly predicted four consequences from the acceptance of artificial birth control. First, that infidelity would occur and morality would decline; second there would be a loss of respect for women; third there would be an abuse of power by governments; and fourth it would lead people to think they have unlimited power over their own bodies.
Fifty-two years later, it is really easy to see that all four of Pope Paul VI’s prophecies have come true.
I’d like to read you just one of the full versions of his prophecies, regarding the Loss of Respect for Women. Pope Paul VI said, “Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.” I can totally see that happening in our society, so…
I highly encourage you to read the document, but I said a contraceptive mentality leads to abortion, right? That was 1968. Roe v Wade happened in 1973. The one flows from the other, but it starts with our own attitudes towards life.
I want you to consider this… what teachings of the Church do you disagree with? Maybe it is contraception. Maybe it is about Mary. Maybe it is about the Eucharist. It could be a number of things.
Is there anything that you disagree with the Church on, and I am talking the whole Church, the doctrine, not things you disagree with me on or Nativity on, that is “small c church” but I am talking about the “big C Church,” okay? lol
Now I’d like to relate this to the end of this parable. This one man gets invited to the wedding feast, and he decides he’ll go. He knows it is a wedding feast, he knows what the proper attire is, but he is like, “ahhh, heck with it, they are basically begging me to go, I’m gonna go just as I am, not put on my nice clothes.”
He is basically saying, “Okay, I’m in, but I’m not fully in. I’ll go along with this, but not everything.”
Do you see what I am saying? This is like us when we say, “Oh yeah, I’m Catholic, but I disagree with the Church on X, Y, and Z… I’m gonna do my own thing there.”
Listen, friends, that is not being Catholic. That is not the way it is supposed to be, we cannot be Cafeteria Catholics, just picking and choosing what we will or will not go along with in the Church’s teaching when it is convenient for us.
We can no longer afford that here. The witness of half-hearted Catholics has done much violence to the body of Christ, and is still doing violence to His body the Church.
In or out, there is no more time to straddle the issue, any issue. Now, I am not saying we shouldn’t think about the issues. If you disagree with a teaching, the proper response is to dig in and find the answer, to do the research and get to the bottom of what the Church teaches.
I’ve had to do this myself, for the first 27 years of my life there were lots of things that I didn’t fully understand or even agree with.
But with resources like Catholic.com, doing this research is super easy, barely an inconvenience… but we have to do it. We can’t just dig in our heals and say, “I’m right, the Church and the Pope are wrong…” We have to find the Truth. Jesus is the Truth, and He has promised to safeguard the Pope, Jesus is still leading His Church.
Because, the deal is that God wants to bless you through the Church.
The Church doesn’t take our freedom away, She gives us freedom to know the Truth and show us where the boundaries are, and we can play anywhere inside of this sandbox, because we will be safe here. We will be secure here. We will be blessed, abundantly blessed here in the Church.
Come to the feast, not half-heartedly, but fully invested, I am begging you. The Church has the broader view in mind, and our own best interest in mind. The time has come. Live your Catholic Faith.
-Fr. Andy, Pastor