Life is not a dress rehearsal

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 15 October 2023
Isaiah 25:6-10 ><}}}}*> Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 ><}}}}*> Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier in Taal, Batangas, 15 February 2014.

Igrew up in a generation when dressing properly – meaning, decently – was deeply inculcated both at home and the school. It has always been considered in our time as a sign of maturity when we come properly attired in every occasion.

Now, those days are gone along with the expression “Sunday’s best” when sneakers are paired with formal suits and worn even in weddings! Dressing has become so relative with total disregard for basic fashion sense and worst of all, without any sense of propriety at all in the name of personal comfort and style as well as individuality. That culture on “liberal” or “liberated” dressing has encroached into the church with priests refusing to wear the proper garments and dress as required by Code of Canon law. How ironic that while the lay people appreciate us priests dressed properly for the liturgy and ministry, the harshest insults and negative reactions against it come from some priests who argue using the hot weather as an excuse. Many priests have subscribed to the lame excuse of people that clothes do not make us who we are, that there is much more beneath the clothing we wear of who we really are.

True but not absolutely because what we wear, how we look outside is indicative of who we are, what we value, what we believe in. Dress speaks a lot about ourselves whether we like it or not as the Lord’s parable this Sunday teaches us.

The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:11-14

Photo by Fr. RA Valmadrid, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 October 2023.

We now come to the third and final series of parables addressed by Jesus Christ directly to his enemies, the chief priests and elders of the people while teaching at the temple area in Jerusalem to underscore to them the need to reform their lives and be converted to his good news of salvation like the tax collectors and prostitutes.

See how in today’s parable some semblances with the parables of the two sons and wicked tenants of the past two weeks to show us God’s loving patience in doing everything to make us come to him like the subjects of the king with all the chances to come to his son’s wedding banquet.

And like with the parables of the past two Sundays, Matthew makes again a crucial twist in today’s parable that can be sufficiently ended in that part when the king was enraged by the continued refusal of his guests to come to his son’s wedding banquet that he ordered them all killed and instead extended his invitation to everyone in the streets.

The wedding banquet is heaven like the vineyard in the parables of the past two Sundays.

But it is not only referring to heaven at the end of time but also speaks so well of the here and now – the present life we live as citizens of the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. Rejecting the invitation to come to the meal which as an expression of our citizenship in God’s kingdom is an act of disloyalty and treason against him.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Hearts of Jesus and Mary parish, Malolos City, 2022.

When we were baptized, we became citizens of the kingdom of God. We do our “pledge of allegiance” to God as his citizens every time we pray and most especially celebrate Mass which is just half of the whole deal of being citizens of his kingdom! Like in being Filipinos or whatever nationality we have, we must live up to our citizenship in God’s kingdom by being good and holy. That is the wedding dress referred to in the parable, the life we lead as children and citizens of God and his kingdom.

Jesus invites us today to face squarely the uncomfortable issues that prevent us from being his good and faithful disciples and citizens of God’s kingdom. Many times we are like those invited guests in the parable who allowed something else in their lives like their wealth and possession, businesses and worldly pursuits become more important than their allegiance to the King. Every time we sin, every time we skip the Sunday Mass, that is when we have our new God and King that may be our very selves, gadgets, vices, or the malls we frequent more than the church!

Here we find a deepening in Jesus Christ’s invitation to conversion into conforming our lives into him. St. Paul made a lot of beautiful imageries of “putting on Jesus Christ” as our new clothes and garment which we have retained in the Rite of Baptism when the newly baptized is clothed with the white dress. See how the man caught by the king fell silent when confronted because there was no excuse at all at not wearing the wedding dress in the banquet. The same thing is true with us today. We have no excuse for not being dressed, for not being conformed in Jesus Christ in our lives as his disciples. Everyday he gives us the opportunities of being conformed to him through our daily conversions through prayers and good works. God does not expect us to wear extravagant nor expensive clothes for his wedding banquet; just a clean and decent clothes are enough. Nobody is perfect.

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Tagalag, Valenzuela City, 13 September 2023.

One of the things I used to enjoy in my school and seminary days were joining stage plays. Yes, I love acting but I just don’t know if acting (and singing) love me. Nonetheless, one of our most dreaded moments before the actual play was always the dress rehearsal when everything is considered as the “real thing”, the real play as our teaches and nuns have insisted when we were supposed to have memorized our lines and cues.

But, as I grew and matured, I realized that life is not a dress rehearsal at all; each day is an actual “play”, a “live” presentation where we must “perform” or “act” so well. Yes, we are all required to memorize our lines and cues in life but many times, we forget them. Nobody is perfect. And here lies the immense love and kindness of God to us: he allows us to improvise for our selves in case we have forgotten our lines just like those people instantly invited to the wedding banquet of the King’s son. They were able to improvise to make it to the banquet hall except for that one who came not dressed for the occasion. He was silent because he was so lazy to improvise, to find ways like the chief priests and elders in the time of the Lord. Until now, many of us make a lot of excuses and alibis for not being conformed in Christ, from the ordinary excuse of being “difficult” to the most absurd that “I am only human” or tao lamang, mahina at marupok. Keep in mind St. Paul’s words in the second reading, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me… My God will supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil.4:13, 19).

Photo by Ka Ruben, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2022.

Every Sunday we are invited to celebrate with others the coming of Jesus and the salvation he has won for us. This wedding banquet is the Sunday Mass we celebrate, a fulfillment of the first reading from Isaiah of that mountain where “the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines” (Is. 25:6). In the Holy Eucharist, we have the choicest food and drinks – the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ – given to us to nourish us and keep us strong in this journey of life into eternity in heaven with the Father.

How amazing that nothing is really imposed upon us in coming to this banquet of the Lord in the Eucharist that is totally free of charge except that we have to come properly dressed on the inside, of being conformed in him.

But please, let’s get dressed also on the outside. No need to wear expensive and beautiful clothes. Just proper and clean ones are more than enough. A good rule of thumb we can rely on is this: God has blessed me tremendously this week and I am coming to celebrate with him, for him. How do I look to to express to him my gratitude and appreciation to his wondrous gifts? Amen. It is a Sunday, go to Mass!

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