A couple of assignments ago I was at St. Joseph in Amherst, so I was located all the way on the west side of the diocese. There was a good friend of mine who had some family out there.
They had a young boy named Isaiah who was about middle school age, and he wanted to get baptized. I was really excited because I got to take him to get baptized. His church was St. Vincent DePaul. I took him there, and we did the baptism.
A couple of years went by and he was not going to church anymore, which I really felt bad about. He was really involved in sports. He played football, and one weekend he was scheduled to play my parish. He was coming to St. Joseph to play a football game, and he was coming from St. Vincent DePaul.
It was on a Sunday, too, so I said, “How about if you come to Mass and, after Mass, I will come and watch the game. He said to me, “I am not really going to Mass anymore, but how about you come watch football with me.” I said, “No, but is there anything I can do to make you want to go to Mass?” He said to me, “How about if you wear my St. Vincent DePaul jersey when you come to the game?” I said, “Man, that is a tough one, but it is worth it if you come to Mass. I will wear whatever jersey you want me to wear and come to the game.”
He went to Mass that morning. He texted me that morning and said, “I went to Mass.” He made me a St. Vincent DePaul jersey, and I put it on and walked over to the football field at St. Joe’s in Amherst.
I walked over to the football field and, as I walked over to the stands, I had the most horrible feeling in the world because all of a sudden my people that I loved at St. Joseph in Amherst were screaming at me. They started yelling and screaming at me that they were just horrified that I would wear the opponents’ jersey. I thought, “Hey, is this really a big deal? This is sixth grade football.”
I was a little naive as to what this experience would be like wearing the opponents’ jersey. They were absolutely crazy – to the point where I could no longer sit in the stands, so I walked by the field. About halfway through the game, the coach went into the building and came out with a St. Joseph Amherst jersey and said, “Father, I think you better put this on.” So, I did. I traded jerseys and put on the St. Joseph Amherst shirt and found myself once more totally reunited with the people of St. Joseph Amherst.
For me, this is what it must have been like for this guy who showed up at the wedding feast. We hear at the end of the scripture passage that this man shows up at the wedding feast, and he shows up without the white garment.
The master, God the Father, says to him, “Where is the white garment?” He says to him, “I do not have it.” Then he takes him and throws him out of the wedding feast. Some of us would think that is crazy. Why would God do that? He showed up without a garment. Why would he not let him in anyway?
The reality is that the garment is a deeper symbol of us being clothed in Christ. Us being wrapped in Christ. Us actually being one in Christ. In wedding celebrations back in that day, whenever they sent out the invitations for the wedding, they would also send out the garment. At this wedding, the expectation was the same. Everybody was given a garment to wear, and this guy showed up at the wedding without his garment.
What does that have to do with us and the church today? Each and every one of us has an invitation to the wedding feast. The wedding feast is the Eucharist. So, we are all invited to the wedding feast.
In baptism, each of us was given . . . what? A white garment. We were given a white garment to wear. In that moment of our baptism, the priest says a prayer. I want to read you that prayer because it is a beautiful prayer.
The celebrant says to whoever is being baptized: You have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity and with your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into everlasting life.
When we were given that white garment at baptism, we were clothed in Christ. Through our whole lives, if we live in union with Christ, we can always come forward to the Eucharist because that is our identity. We are wrapped in him, but two things can happen to destroy that white garment. One would be grave sin.
If we commit any grave or mortal sin, we have soiled that garment where it is no longer recognizable. Sometimes people show up to the Eucharist and they say, “Well, I have grave sin but why can’t I receive the Eucharist?” The truth and reality is that we can, but there is a process for that.
There is a way for your white garment to be restored and that process is . . . Confession. If we soiled our white garment and destroyed it, we can have it restored and then come to the Eucharist.
The other thing that can keep us from looking forward to receiving the Eucharist is not having received that white garment. People that are not Catholic often ask, “Why can’t I go to Communion? Doesn’t God love me? Can’t I go?”
My response to them often is, “Yes, you can go, but there is a process for it. If you go through RCIA and learn about the faith, you will be initiated into our faith. You will receive this white garment and you can come forward and receive the Eucharist.”
We are all given the opportunity to come forward and receive the Eucharist. We are all clothed in Christ and our entire lives we have the opportunity to come every Sunday. There is going to be a final judgment. The last judgment will come before we go into heaven, or hell, or purgatory.
At that final judgment, we are going to have to show up with our white garment on. We have to show up clothed in Christ. We have to show up pure in Christ. We have to show up ready to enter into heaven. Some people may have lost their white garment. Some people may have walked away from the faith. Some people may no longer believe in God.
Some people may have sinned so gravely and turned themselves away from God. The reality is that we do have our entire life to receive this white garment, to wear this white garment, to go to Confession and have it be renewed. So that one day when we show up for that final judgment, God will see us as clothed in Christ, and we can enter into heaven.
The Sunday Eucharist is just a glimpse of that. If we can show up every Sunday pure and with that white garment on, then we are most likely to go to that final judgment and be clothed in that white garment.
If we do not have the white garment, you will experience that same thing that I experienced at St. Joseph in Amherst: a miserable rejection. We will experience the same thing that Jesus preaches in the gospel today . . . the rejection from the Kingdom of God and ultimately the rejection from eternal life. It is so important that we have this white garment and that we keep it unstained until eternal life. It is important not only for ourselves but for those that we love.
As we prepare to enter these sacraments, we realize that we are called to wear the white garment. We are also called to catechize, to educate, and to evangelize. We are called to bring other people into this possibility of wearing the white garment and being part of this team of Christ so that one day we can all ultimately join Him in that final celebration of eternal life.