All this week the Church has presented as the first reading for Holy Mass an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.
I provided you with a few details about Ezekiel on Tuesday- that he was a priest, who lived during the last years of the Kingdom of David and witnessed for himself the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in the year 587 BC. The decline and fall of the Kingdom of David was not only a political or cultural catastrophe, it was a spiritual and theological catastrophe. The soul of Israel was shattered. Did this all mean that God had abandoned his people? What could the people have possibly done to deserve this? What did it all mean? How could they be true and faithful Israelites without all the things that the world says matters?
Ezekiel proposes answers to these kinds of questions, and what he has to say is very hard to take. He believes that the terrors that overtook the Israelites were caused by idolatry. Wealth, pleasure, power and honors had become the gods of the people, and those gods, capricious and fickle, had delivered the Israelites into the hands of their enemies.
Yesterday, Ezekiel castigated the “shepherds” of Israel for their idolatry. These “shepherds” were Israel’s kings, prophets and priests. The prophet Ezekiel assured the Israelites that the God of Israel had judged these “shepherds” and found them wanting, and he would sweep them away. He would be their shepherd. The God of Israel would become for his people the true priest, prophet and king.
Once the God of Israel came to his people as priest, prophet and king, Israel would be restored and redeemed.
Today’s scripture expresses the great promise of this restoration and redemption.
When God comes to his people as priest, prophet and king, he will set them in right relationship with himself, and in setting them in right relationship, will set a world gone wrong right!
As Christians, we believe the Christ the Lord is the God of Israel come to his people as priest, prophet and king. This reality is revealed and received by us in the Mass, where the Christ, priest, prophet and king makes himself known in extraordinary ways.
Our worship, the Church’s worship is not faith based entertainment or a community building exercise but a sacred and mysterious meeting with Christ as our priest, prophet and king.
This is the worship that sets us in right relationship with God and through our worship, Christ acts to restore and redeem us.
The Church’s worship in the Mass is the subject of Christ the Lord’s parable in his Gospel. Christ’s reference to a wedding feast is a coded term for the Church’s worship (the “codebreaker” for this reference is disclosed in the Book of Revelation- which presents the Church’s worship as “the wedding feast of the lamb”. Thus, when you hear of references to weddings or wedding feasts or Christ as bridegroom in the Gospels your reference point for understanding the meaning of Christ’s words is the Mass.)
The message and meaning of Christ’s parable is that only those who have received their “wedding garment”, that is the Sacrament of Baptism, are to be admitted to the Eucharistic mystery. The world is chosen for the Mass, but not all can receive its holy mysteries- first, one must be prepared. Who is responsible for this preparation? We are!
The burden of this preparation is on those of us who have been fully initiated into the Church. We are the servants of the Son of the King, sent forth into the world to invite guests to the wedding feast of the Lamb of God and to prepare those invited to enter into the presence of and receive the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
This is a great responsibility, and the Christ makes it clear that the consequences are grave if we do not take our responsibility with utmost seriousness.
Do we? Remember, we are servants, not masters of the Church’s worship. Our worship, true worship, the worship that restores and redeems, is not faith based entertainment, but an invitation from the Lord himself to meet him as our priest, prophet and king.
When we meet him, and invite others to do so, will he find us properly disposed to receive him?