Don’t be afraid & stay outside, cold with loneliness…Come home by wearing the garment of love
God is pretty smart. As I read the readings, I remembered the old saying: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach… or, an army marches on its stomach. The image of food and fine wines is powerful, because when we have a full stomach we feel content, safe from starvation, and able to laugh with our brothers and sisters.
One of the struggles in all our lives is finding places where we belong. As little children, hopefully, we feel welcome and safe in our home – a place to belong physically – but more importantly, a place where we experience love: feeling at home emotionally.
The thrust of our readings today is the invitation to “come home.” Not so much physically, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. But, we can never “come home” unless we leave home. Perhaps that’s why God designed the process of puberty in each of us: it drives us to the point of needing to escape from our parents and create a new life: connected, but independent from the parents.
I recall a humorous moment at our Oblate College, for boys, when a distraught mother comes to see the Rector: almost in tears about how her 14 year old son had suddenly started acting strangely and disturbing the whole house; Fr Peter smiled at her and said: “I’m sorry for your distress, but your son has left the planet. We just pray he returns to earth in two years time.”
It’s strange that God designed us – especially boys – to want to run away from “home.” But, until we face the world outside our first home, we will never know who we are,
and never really discover who God is, and never know how valuable each one of us is.
The emotional need for belonging is one of the five key emotional needs for every person. Without a sense of belonging, we are like a physically crippled person; we struggle to move freely and often need assistance: we struggle with our relationships because we live in fear of rejection, and we don’t have anywhere to go where we feel unconditionally loved.
The workplace loves us because we perform – but when we stop performing, we are no longer “wanted”. Most of our friends are friends until we disagree with them, then we’re not welcome
Then, we finally form a new house, where we struggle to create a home: learning to trust; to expose ourselves intimately; to give up control. We struggle, perhaps, because we fear the loss of our freedom; or we fear being “hurt” again.
So, today’s readings are a welcome home invitation. The invited guests who did not respond were “busy” doing their own things: trying to create their own happiness, away from their King who makes it possible for them to live freely in their country.
Is that one of our challenges, too? Are we trying to make ourselves happy by making ourselves more rich; to have more material things; a bigger car, bigger security fence, etc.? And, yet, it’s often the people with the most worldly riches who are unhappy and turn to drugs.
It’s a great sadness that, as more and more people leave the practice of being Church, the last 50 years (in the so-called developed world), has shown how depression, violence, youth suicide and number of prisoners has increased dramatically.
But perhaps this had to happen: the earthy Church is being forced to leave the comfortable house it had created, and continue the journey of looking for the true Home of God.
It’s easy to criticise people who no longer go to Church, but the reality is that many of us in the Church made them feel like they no longer belong there: misuse of power, abuse in many forms, and the leaders no longer acting as true servants of the people, but demanding “masters”.
But, there is hope! God will always create opportunities for us to be given an invitation to the banquet. Now, you ask, “how will we see the messengers from, and hear the call of, God?”
We already have the invitation: now find the wedding garment! Our cook asked today to go to town and buy new shoes so he can attend the ordination this Saturday. Just as he worries about having a proper physical uniform, we all need to get the right spiritual uniform.
The Good News is this: it’s easy to find. The struggle is to fit into the uniform! The uniform is kindness, generosity and forgiveness to others. Perhaps we struggle to fit into it because we are fat with selfishness, fear of tomorrow’s needs and drunk on self-righteous anger?
My friends, it’s time to come home. Because if we remain outside, it’s going to get very cold and lonely for us. Come home to God wearing the spiritual wedding garment of love, and help clean up the Church to make it a place of welcome for all.
May God bless each one of you with the knowledge that you are valuable and welcome. And may each of us share that message who are still outside in the cold.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI