TEXT: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 15, 2023

October 15, 2023 Father De Celles Homily

The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 15, 2023

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somehow, every day, we could go to heaven

and not have to die?

If we could be with our friends and family one minute

and with God in heaven the next?

And then back with our family again the next minute?

But the thing is, we can do that—and we do do that–

every time we come here to enter into the mystery of the Mass.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us,

         “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king

                  who gave a wedding feast for his son.”

Throughout the Old Testament one of the primary symbols

         God uses to explain His relationship with Israel is the image of marriage:

                  Over and over again God calls Himself the bridegroom

                           and Israel His bride,

                  using the image of husband and wife to explain

                                    His deep and undying love for His people.

In fact, there are two Old Testament books

         that are almost entirely dedicated to this theme:

                  the Song of Songs and the book of the prophet Hosea.

So, we can see that even your average pious Jew listening to Jesus  

         would have clearly recognized something very important

                  in the parable in today’s Gospel.

For months they’d been hearing Jesus specifically calling God, His “Father”,

         and Himself, “The Son of the Father.”

And now they hear Him say,

         “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king

                  who gave a wedding feast for his son.”

Not only would they understand that God was the father in the story,

         and that Jesus was the son,

         but also, that Jesus was making Himself

the bridegroom at the heavenly wedding feast.

And to the pious Jew, the bridegroom of heaven was God!

         So, what they hear is Jesus calling Himself God!!


This imagery of the bridegroom and bride continues to show up

         in the Gospel and the rest of the New Testament.

Two important examples are found

         in St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians and St. John’s Book of Revelation.

In Ephesians St. Paul tells husbands, 

         “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church

and gave Himself up for her.”

At every wedding the groom is supposed to give himself to his bride completely,

to enter into an attitude of loving her that is, at its heart, self-sacrificing.

On a daily basis he’s supposed to sacrifice his whole life,

         even giving himself bodily

–in his physical work for her and in his physical love for her–

and even being willing to literally die to protect her.

St. Paul tells us that this is what Christ does for His bride, the Church:

         He gave himself up entirely for and to His bride, the Church,

when He laid down His life, body, and soul in the Sacrifice of the Cross.

In the Book of Revelation,

         St. John picks up on this theme of the bridegroom’s sacrifice

         and ties it back to Jesus’ theme of the wedding feast.

In his vision of heaven

         John tells us that he sees Jesus in heaven standing as

                  “a Lamb who was slain,”

         a reference to the fact that Jesus offered His sacrifice on the Cross

         on the very same day as the Jews were offering

         the most important sacrifice of the Old Testament,

         the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb.

But John also sees a heavenly banquet,

         recalling to mind the passage from Isaiah that we read today

         that in heaven,

                  “The LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples

a feast of rich food and choice wines.”

But this is no ordinary banquet. It is, as St. John calls it,

         “the wedding feast of the Lamb” and His bride, the Church.

In all this, we see the sacrifice of the Cross

         as the total self gift of love by Jesus to and for His bride.

         And we see the “heavenly wedding feast” as our participation

         in that gift of Jesus’ love.

In other words, we see ourselves sharing in every good thing God can give us.

But the thing is, we don’t have to wait to die to go to this wedding feast

because we begin to share in that feast right here on earth

         as we come to participate in the Eucharist.

We remember that on the night before His sacrifice on the Cross,

         while He was eating the Passover meal with His apostles,

         Jesus replaced the sacrificed lamb of the Jewish Passover meal

         with the Bread that, He assured his apostles,

was no longer bread but His very own body.

And so, every time we come to Holy Mass,

         we offer and consume the sacrificed lamb of the Cross,

         “the Lamb of God.”

It’s as if time is suspended, heaven opens up,

and we’re swept up into the mystery

of the heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb,

the great gift of the intense and intimate love

between Christ and His Church.


The thing is, this marital love is not a one-way street.

         As Christ gives Himself to His bride,

         the Church is also called to give herself completely to her husband

         —to dedicate her whole life to loving Him.

And Jesus tells us how to love Him at the Last Supper.

Just minutes before He gave us the Eucharist,

         and only hours before He went to the Cross,

         Jesus tells the apostles the secret to loving Him:

                  “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

So, Jesus makes it absolutely clear:

         His bride must keep the commandments if she is to be His loving bride–

         if she is to enter into the wedding feast–

         in heaven and in the Eucharist.

Now, one of the problems with the wedding analogy

         is that it applies to the Church as a whole—one bride–

         so that individuals might have a hard time easily relating to it.

It’s true that we can say each Christian is part of the Bride.

         In a certain way, too, each one of us is a bride of Christ.

But it’s not the easiest analogy to relate to—especially for men.

It seems to me that Jesus, Who knows everything, understood this.

         And because He wanted to make the point

         that the invitation to the wedding feast

         extends to each and every individual human being,

         He added the twist of the “invited guests.

This works because each guest at the feast

         is invited to join in the love of the couple

         and share in all the good things that flow from that love–the feast.


In today’s Gospel we read how at the wedding feast of heaven

         the Father sends his servants out, saying,

                  “ ‘The feast is ready….Invite…whomever you find.’

                  The servants…gathered all they found, bad and good alike.”

This reminds us how generous the Lord is

         to invite both the righteous and sinners to come to His kingdom.

Unfortunately, we can delude ourselves with this passage,

         sometimes thinking that since God allows everyone to enter heaven

and into the spousal communion of the Mass,

                  everyone should actually enter heaven

                  and everyone should receive Holy Communion.

But according to the parable,

         not everyone who is invited to the wedding gets to stay to eat the supper.

Jesus goes on to explain that when the king discovered a guest

                  “not dressed in a wedding garment,”

         he had him bound and “cast into the darkness outside.”

And He concludes, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

God invites all of us to His Son’s wedding banquet,

         both in heaven and in the Eucharist.

But He also tells us to prepare ourselves for the banquet

         —and if we’re not prepared, He will not let us take part in, or eat, the feast.


Consider how the parable tells us how God judges who is prepared:

He looks at his garment.

It tells us, 

“When the king came in to meet the guests,

he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment…

Then the king said, ‘…cast him into the darkness outside.’ “

What is the wedding garment?

In the Book of Revelation, St. John tells us that the saints in heaven

wear white robes, as an angel explains,

“They have washed their robes and made them white

in the blood of the Lamb.”

Because of this, at our baptism each of us was physically clothed in white,

symbolizing that we had been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.

And that’s why the priest and the servers wear white garments–

to symbolize their baptism

and to symbolize that at Mass they are standing with the saints in heaven,

clothed in white at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

These outward white garments are only symbols,

but they remind us of how all of those who wish to partake

of the wedding feast of heaven

—either when we die or right here at Holy Mass—

must prepare beforehand and present ourselves cleansed from sin,

especially the grotesque stains of mortal sins.


So how do you prepare yourself for heaven and for Mass?

Is your spiritual garment the glorious white robe of the saints—unstained by sin?

Now, most of us come here with at least some, if not many,

venial, or small, sins on our souls–

like specks of dirt or lint or crumbs, they don’t ruin the garment completely,

         but we need to brush them off so we can be presentable.

And so, we ask the Lord to forgive them all through the Mass,

especially in prayers like the Confiteor

or the “Lord I am not worthy…” right before Communion.

And like a friend who puts the final touches

on the bride’s gown or the groom’s suit right before the wedding,

Christ will forgive them right then and there.

Sadly, though, sometimes we come to Mass with unrepented mortal sins,

which so disfigure the wedding garment that it’s not fit to be worn to the feast.

Like a white suit or dress that’s been rolled in the mud

and needs to go to a dry cleaner, and maybe even to a seamstress,

this garment has to go through the special cleaning and repair process

         –given to us by Jesus Himself–

of confessing and repenting before a priest, and being absolved by him,

in the Sacrament of Penance.

Otherwise, it really isn’t a wedding garment;

it looks nothing like the white robes of the saints at the heavenly feast.

Most of us would never go to a wedding

         dressed in anything less than our absolutely best clothes.

But all too many Catholics expect to come and eat

         at the wedding feast of the Lamb

wearing the spiritually and morally tattered rags that are their mortal sins.  


In a few minutes I will hold up the Body of Jesus Christ for all to see,

and proclaim,

                  “Behold the Lamb of God.

Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.

Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”–

                           a direct reference to the heavenly wedding feast

come down to this altar.

Think carefully, search your soul, and ask yourself:

Have I prepared well for the wedding feast?

Have I been living the life of love in truly keeping with the Commandments?

Have I been purified of mortal sins by the sacrament of Confession?

Do I now repent all my venial sins?

Do I present myself in the wedding garment of the saints,

or clothed in the rags of sin?


The Lord Jesus tells us, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king

         who gave a wedding feast for his son”

But He also says of those who are not prepared for the feast,

          “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

As we move more deeply into the mystery of this Holy Mass, this Eucharist,

this foretaste of the heavenly wedding feast,

         let us rejoice and give thanks for this invitation

to share in the Love between the Bridegroom and His Bride.

But let us also examine ourselves with all truth and humility.

May we never either be emboldened by our sins so as to ignore them,

         or be discouraged by our sins so as to allow them

to keep us from preparing for the feast.

May all receive the Lord Jesus worthily, at every Mass, and for eternity in Heaven.