The Parable of the Wedding Banquet and the Third Commandment
During the Mass, the priest turns to the congregation with the sacred Host and says, “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.” His words and our response honor the Third Commandment and fulfill the teachings of Jesus and the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (cf. Mt. 22:1-14).
This parable is about Scriptural events, heaven and hell, and it is a commentary on the spiritual life. The King sends his servants to invite his subjects to his son’s wedding feast. The people reject and abuse the servants, so the King expands the gathering to include the thoroughfares. But some show up unadorned for the wedding, and the King casts them into the darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”
God sends his prophets to invite the Chosen People into His company. The people reject the prophets, so God sends His Son. Jesus expands the Chosen People beyond the Twelve Tribes of Israel with the Twelve Apostles. His Church is not tribal; it is universal: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Jesus is the Divine Bridegroom, and the Church is His Bride. The Mass is the wedding feast.
God purifies and adorns us with His grace through His Church. Baptism incorporates us into the Mystical Body of Christ. Confirmation strengthens us. The Eucharist sustains us. The marriage feast of the parable anticipates the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus, the Divine Bridegroom.
Consuming the Consecrated Host meets a daily human need (“Give us this day our daily bread”). The sacred gift completes our worship. We become one with Jesus, the Divine Bridegroom, and even taste our union with Him. Our observance of Sunday Mass (including the Saturday Vigil Mass) honors the Third Commandment after the Resurrection of Jesus: “Keep holy the Sabbath.” The wedding feast of the Sunday Mass foreshadows heavenly glory.
As the parable suggests, at times members of the Church are her worst enemies. Many hate the King, have contempt for His servants (the Prophets), and despise His Church. They crucify Jesus by their contemptuous rejection of His Church. Members of the Church also crucify Jesus by their sins and scandalize Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Subversive Catholics aim to redefine the Church to their own liking.
God responds to rejection by redirecting and expanding His grace. Our King regularly prunes and reconfigures Catholic Church membership. The Twelve Apostles fulfilled and replaced the Twelve tribes of Israel. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Mt. 22:37) Declining Church membership and practice in the West gives way to a growing and heroically faithful Church in Africa. In the generations ahead, we may see “Holy God, we praise Thy name” replace “Allahu Akbar.”
The King rejects those not dressed in proper attire. With the introduction of jeans and t-shirts, the “Sunday best” for Mass has largely gone the way of the dinosaur. More significantly, we often pay little attention to the attire of our soul. Mortal sin disfigures and robs the life of our soul. We commit sacrilege when we receive Holy Communion in mortal sin. Deliberately missing the Sunday Marriage Feast without sufficient reason is a grave offense against the Third Commandment and denies entry into heaven until repentance.
Catholics may be released from their obligation to attend Mass for understandable and sufficient reasons. Among them are sickness, caring for the sick, first responders, unforeseen acts of charity, unreasonable distance, a car problem, a traveler stuck at the airport, a Catholic on a luxury ship without the opportunity for Mass, military personnel on deployment, and so forth. Even an occasional recreational weekend outing on a mountain top—inaccessible to a Catholic church—can provide a sufficient reason for not attending Mass. Use common sense. (Internet live-streaming is irrelevant to the obligation.)
Contemporary forms of slavery also prevent (and excuse) Mass attendance. Many folks make a living from hand to mouth in the service industry—hotels, restaurants, and the like. Their employers often require that they work weekends and do not allow deviations from the work schedule for worship.
A particularly offensive infringement on religious liberty is the increasingly common attitude by school authorities to schedule sports events on Sunday mornings. The practice gained traction, in part, because of our indifference to the gravity of violating the Third Commandment. The youth suffer, and adults are responsible for their children growing up indifferent to religion. Live-stream the game, not the Mass.
Another reason for missing Mass provides us with a moral conundrum. Catholics often look to attend churches that reverently celebrate Mass according to the traditional liturgical legislation of the Church. Priests know that a reverent celebration of the Mass—at least in appearance—isn’t hard. The priest reads the prayers with integrity and celebrates the Mass with gestures condoned by liturgical directives and traditional practices.
Yet religious authorities generally—and unjustly—overlook so-called “liturgical abuses” that distract and scandalize many Catholics. It is difficult for a priest as confessor to assess whether attending a particular Mass has become so irreverent as to damage the faith of Catholics. When in doubt, bring a rosary to Mass.
When we deliberately miss Mass for an insufficient reason—or if we lack sanctifying grace for the cluster of mortal sins we may commit—we must go to Confession before receiving Communion at the Banquet of the Lamb.
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet helps us examine our conscience to participate in Sunday Mass. The Mass is the wedding feast that heaven fulfills. “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine…. He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” (Is. 25:6-8)
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