Hi everyone, here’s my homily given at the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry at Montclair State University for October 12, 2008 – 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/101208.shtml. Thanks for your feedback and comments. God Bless - Fr. Jim (PS - the title came from someone who said that to another parishioner at this Morning's Mass)
While incredibly violent and profane, no other show has matched the critical and financial success of the television series, The Sopranos. The final episode, which still angers die-hard fans, aired in June of last year. But now - thanks to syndication and DVDs - it’s still a part of the entertainment landscape.
One of the reasons the show was successful was because it dealt with moral questions and dilemmas, using a mafia family from New Jersey as the catalyst. It was considered groundbreaking at the time that a Mob boss, like Tony Soprano, could sit week after week, talking to a therapist, about what might be causing his panic attacks, or why he was having difficulty simply getting through each day. Could these modern monsters - personified by Tony - actually have a heart and soul? Viewers were never quite sure what they'd see next; in one scene, Tony and his wife, Carmella, would be dealing with the challenges of raising their two teenagers; in the next scene, a hit would be made on the father or son of rival family.
A favorite episode of mine was when Tony and Carmella met with two different psychologists, as they tried to work out their marital problems. Up until now, it was always Tony going to therapy alone, but in this episode - in an attempt to save their marriage - they each went to their own therapist.
At Carmela’s meeting with her doctor, she says out loud (possibly for the first time) that, yes, she knows that Tony's a depressed criminal, prone to anger, and incredibly unfaithful to her (in fact, he has been unfaithful multiple times with multiple partners). She’s coming to therapy because she wants to know how to cope with him. Perhaps she was expecting a warm, understanding, let's-look-at-the-positive-side-of-things response, because she’s absolutely stunned when her therapist says that Tony’s only shot at redemption is to turn himself in, read Crime and Punishment and reflect on his crimes, every day, for seven years in his prison cell. And, for her part, the doctor says - far from saving their marriage - Carmela needs to get out of their marriage. He’s so put off by their whole meeting, in fact, that he tells Carmella that he won’t accept payment for the session because he "won’t take blood money."
As Carmella sits there, practically speechless (which is a rarity in the show), the therapist delivers the knockout blow by telling her that if she doesn't leave him, "You'll never be able to feel good about yourself, you’ll never be able to quell the feelings of guilt and shame . . . because you’re his accomplice." And just for good measure, the doctor adds, "One thing you can never say . . . that you haven't been told."
Carmella is called on the carpet . She’s been told what she knew in her heart of hearts and has done nothing about it - what she logically and rationally realized (probably a long time ago) and chose to ignore - what has now been pointed out in the clear light of day. She can no longer hide from the fact that she has not done anything to grow in her moral and ethical duties, not just as a Catholic but just as a human being.
In a similar way, that’s what’s happening in this parable of the wedding banquet. After many of the invited guests refuse to attend, the King opens up His house to anyone and everyone His servants can find. Everyone, regardless of whether they are good or bad, is invited to come and share in the royal wedding banquet.
These lucky new guests meet the King's son and sit at the King's table. And then, the King himself comes in to see the guests - and notices that a man is there who is not dressed as he should - that he has no wedding clothes on. To us, listening to this in 2008, the King seems a bit irrational. We might think, The guy was on the street, how prepared could he have been to come to the wedding feast? But we need a little historical context. In Jesus' day, clothes were provided to wedding guests. This particular guest walked in, saw everyone else was properly attired - and then deliberately chose not to dress up. So when the King asks him, "How did you get in here without wedding clothes?", the man is speechless, he has no answer for the King, and is evicted, thrown out of the house.
Why is the man speechless? Looking at it from his point of view, he probably thought everything would be okay; he was an invited guest, and all kinds of people were there, some of them with lots of skeletons in their closets, so what did it matter what he wore? The Host surely wouldn't care about that - after all He had opened His doors to them.
But that viewpoint is not really reasonable. When we go to a wedding we put on our best clothing - we get prepared to celebrate - we get ready to enjoy ourselves - we go to help the hosts rejoice. It would take a person completely absorbed in himself not do his best. We can understand why a host would feel insulted if someone came without being 'clothed' in the proper spirit, especially when it required little more, on the part of the guest, than a genuine a desire to be there.
The gospel parable today calls us to recognize how privileged we are to be here. God gives us this banquet to feast on his word, to receive his Son’s body and blood; we get the opportunity to receive the Divine, the great Unchanging into our bodies and souls. What are we doing with this gift?
Whether it’s Carmella Soprano, the man thrown out of the banquet hall, or you and I, the call is the same — to live the life that God has gifted us with and to use that gift to His greatest glory. It’s great that all of us are here - but it’s not enough simply to walk in the door. We have to take this gift and make Jesus' presence, His word known to the world around us. And we have opportunities every day to do that. Whether we go deeper in our relationship with Jesus and with one another - or not - is not going to depend upon what someone else said or did, or what others were doing around us, but on what we did with our opportunities. And one thing’s for sure - now we can never say . . . that we haven't been told.