Getting Ready for the Party!
Do you have a favorite homemade treat? For me, it’s devil dogs. My mother used to make devil dogs from scratch that were delicious with a cold glass of milk. I say “used to” because of a family “disaster” that happened when I was in third grade. My mother had made two trays full of devil dogs for a family party at my Aunt Mary’s house. When it came time to head to the party, my brothers and I jumped into the station wagon in our usual rambunctious manner, which included my leaping-without-looking and landing with my bottom smack in the middle of the two trays of devil dogs. There were not even enough treats left to salvage a presentable gift for the party. I can still remember how angry my mother was. She swore she would never make devil dogs again!
Jesus understood parties and the norms that surround them. He would have appreciated the time and energy my mom had put into preparing for the party, all part of the courteous gesture of not showing up empty handed. He understood his own mother when she requested his intervention at Cana when the host was running out of wine. In the Gospel today, Jesus uses a wedding feast as the setting for his parable, something everyone in his audience could relate to. They would understand, as we do, how downright rude it was for the invited guests to refuse and even ignore the invitation. They would also understand, as we do, why the guest who was not dressed appropriately was thrown out. How disrespectful! My brother Mike, a police officer, was a guest at our friend Fr. Jack’s anniversary Mass when a drunk man came in off the street and began disrupting the celebration. Mike didn’t hesitate to throw the man out. Decorum matters.
We are invited to the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Do we accept the invitation or do we make excuses? Do we take the time to prepare for the feast, dressed appropriately in our baptismal garments and having gifts in hand, or are we in danger of being thrown out?
The truth is, none of us is ever fully prepared for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. We all, at times, are in danger of showing up drunk, dressing inappropriately, or jumping on the devil dogs and ruining the gift. The important thing is that we send our RSVP and then take the time to prepare for the feast, which means cooperating with God’s grace in the work of our ongoing conversion. There is no better way to do that than to turn to Mary, who, as I wrote once before, will make sure we are well dressed and will intercede for us with her Son to ensure that the wine never runs out.
Years after the devil dog incident, I was away at college, which made me (my brothers will claim) the beloved son. For my birthday, my mother made a batch of homemade devil dogs for the first time in over a decade! She and my dad delivered them personally to me at my dorm. My brothers didn’t think it was fair that I should get devil dogs for my birthday when I was the reason they had been deprived of them all those years. But, it began a new era. My mother makes the treat to this day, and I still love them! It is a small reminder that our God, like my mother, does not hold our offenses against us. “For I will not accuse forever, nor always be angry,” says God in Isaiah 57:16. And the Psalmist exclaims, “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in mercy. He will not always accuse, and nurses no lasting anger; He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve” (Psalm 103:8-10). Instead, God makes one of the most comforting promises in all of Scripture:
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face”
That is a party I want to attend! I’ve got to start figuring out what to wear; what about you? And, on The Way, I’m going to work hard, this time, to destroy the devil and not the devil dogs!