19th Sunday After Pentecost
19 October 2014
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
In today’s Gospel (Mt. 22:1-14), we see the continuation of Jesus’ parables in which He explains how the Kingdom of Heaven is made available to men, but they, for various reasons, do not accept the invitation of God. In today’s parable of the “Marriage Feast,” we see how the King gives a marriage feast for his son and invites guests to it. According to Bl. Dom Columba Marmion, OSB, this marriage feast by the king is actually the marriage feast of the Son of God who takes upon Himself a human nature. Pope St. Gregory the Great comments on the “Marriage Feast”: “...that the King made a marriage for His Son, in that, by the mystery of the Incarnation, He united the Church to Him. The womb of the Virgin was the nuptial-chamber of that Bridegroom, of whom the psalmist says (Ps. 18:6): ‘He hast set His tabernacle in the sun: and He, as a Bridegroom, cometh out of His bride-chamber.’” Gueranger, The Liturgical Life, Vol. 11, p. 419-20 In the Epistle to Ephesians, not in today’s Epistle (Eph.4:23-28), St. Paul writes about the Church being the bride of Christ: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and delivered himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, cleansing her in the bath of water by means of his word; in order that he might present to himself the Church in all her glory, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and without blemish.” Eph. 5:25-7. The Church, that is all the souls united to Jesus Christ in baptism, is the bride of Christ who will be brought to the heavenly “marriage feast....without spot or wrinkle” at the end of their lives.
The Holiness of union with love in God
In his commentary on today’s Epistle Dom Prosper Gueranger writes in The Liturgical Life Vol. 11 about the holiness in the Blessed Trinity: “Let us call to mind how the holiness, which is in God, is His very truth living and harmonious, which is no other than the admirable concert of the Three divine Persons, united in love. We have seen that holiness, as far as it exists in us men, is also union, by infinite love, with the eternal and living Truth. The Word took a Body unto Himself in order to manifest in the Flesh this sanctifying and perfect truth ( cf. Jn. 1:14), of which He is the substantial expression ((cf. Heb. 1:3). His Humanity, sanctified directly by the plenitude of the divine life and truth, which dwell within Him (cf. Col. 2: 3, 9, 10), became the model, as well as the means, the way, of holiness to every creature ((cf. Jn. 14:6)....In Jesus, as the complement of His Incarnation, Wisdom aspires at uniting with herself all the members, also, of that human race, of which He is the Head (cf. Eph. 1:10), and First-born (cf. Col. 1:15-20); by Him the Holy Ghost, whose sacred fount He is (cf. Jn. 4:14), pours Himself out upon man, whereby to adapt him to his sublime vocation, and to consummate, in infinite love (which is Himself), that union of every creature with the divine Word. Thus it is that we verily partake of that life of God, whose existence and holiness are the knowledge and love of His own Word; thus it is that we are sanctified in truth (cf. Jn. 17:17) by the participation of that very holiness wherewith God is holy by nature.” Gueranger, p. 412
“...and put on the new man which has been created according to God in justice, and holiness of truth.” Eph. 4:23
St. Paul, in urging his followers to put on the new man in truth, shows us that the unifying principle in Jesus Christ for all of His members is the Holy Spirit of truth and love. Dom Gueranger comments on this unifying principle: “’May they all be one, as Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee, said Jesus to His eternal Father, that they also may be one in us. I have given unto them the glory (that is to say, the holiness) which Thou hast given unto me, that they may be one as we also are one; I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be consummated (that is, be made perfect) in unity.’” (cf. 17:21-28) ...By that sublime prayer, He explained what He had previously been saying: ‘I sanctified Myself for them, that they, also may sanctified in truth.’” (cf. Jn. 17:19) Gueranger, p.413
“...bond of peace”
In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul writes about being faithful to one’s calling: “...with all humility and meekness, with patience, bearing with one another in love careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit.” Eph. 4:2-4 This unity of the Spirit is, according to Dom Gueranger, the principle for all: “It is the crowning of the sublimest vocations in the order of grace as well as the foundation and reason of all God’s commandments; so truly so, indeed, that, if we are commanded to abstain from lying, and to speak the truth to them that live with us, the motive is that we are members one of another.” Gueranger, p. 413-4 This is why St. Paul in today’s Epistle tells us: “Wherefore, put away lying and speak truth each one with his neighbour, because we are members of one another. ‘Be angry and do not sin.’ (Ps. 4:5); do not let the sun go down upon your anger: do not give place to the devil. He who was wont to steal, let him steal no longer, but rather let him labour, working with his hands at what is good, that he may have something to share with him who suffers need.” Eph. 4:25-8 Only those who keep “the bond of peace” with one another can belong to Christ and enter the heavenly “marriage feast.”
Heavenly Marriage Feast
Today’s Gospel is similar to the Gospel of Second Sunday after Pentecost (Lk. 14:16-24) which has “The Great Supper” to which many were invited. St. Matthew’s “Marriage Feast” is fuller in details with a revelation of the true aim of the Church. Dom Gueranger, in comparing the two gospels, says: “The certain man who made a great supper, and invited many, has become the King, who makes a marriage feast for His Son, and, in this marriage, gives us an image of the kingdom of heaven. The world’s history, too, has been developing, as we gather from the terms respectively used by the two Evangelists. Those who were first invited, and contented themselves with declining the kindness of the Master of the house, have grown in their impious ingratitude; laying hands on the messengers sent them by the loving kindness of the King, they treat them with contumely, and put them to death! We have seen the merited punishment inflicted on these deicides, by this Man, who was God Himself, the Father of Israel, now become King of the Gentiles: we have seen how He sent his armies to destroy them and burn their city. And now at last, in spite of the refusal of the invited of Juda, in spite of the treacherous opposition put them against the celebration of the nuptials of the Son of God, all things are ready for the marriage, and the banquet-hall is filled with guests.” Gueranger, p.417
Wedding Garment of Sanctifying Grace
The spiritual meaning of the “Parable of the Marriage Feast” contains the need for sanctifying grace to enter the heavenly “marriage feast.” All have been invited from the highways and crossroads of the land. When the King enters, he notices one without a wedding garment. This wedding garment signifies the need on the part of the soul to have sanctifying grace. In the spiritual sense, the man has not kept the “bond of peace” because he has not kept the Commandments and has offended God and his neighbour by his sins; therefore, the king has his hands and feet bound and casts him out into the darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Mt. 22:13 As we can see from today’s parable of the “Marriage Feast,” “...many are called, but few are chosen.” Mt. 22:14 All have the invitation, but not all accept the invitation. It is they who refuse to come either by rejecting Jesus Christ or by refusing to repent after disobeying God’s Commandments. We can be assured that we will be chosen for the heavenly “marriage feast” if we persevere in “the bond of peace” with love of God and our neighbour.
“The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved” Part III
by St. Leonard of Port Maurice
The Words of Holy Scripture
But why seek out the opinions of the Fathers and theologians, when Holy Scripture settles the question so clearly? Look in to the Old and New Testaments, and you will find a multitude of figures, symbols and words that clearly point out this truth: very few are saved. In the time of Noah, the entire human race was submerged by the Deluge, and only eight people were saved in the Ark. Saint Peter says, "This ark was the figure of the Church," while Saint Augustine adds, "And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark." The Bible also tells us that only two Hebrews out of two million entered the Promised Land after going out of Egypt, and that only four escaped the fire of Sodom and the other burning cities that perished with it. All of this means that the number of the damned who will be cast into fire like straw is far greater than that of the saved, whom the heavenly Father will one day gather into His barns like precious wheat.
I would not finish if I had to point out all the figures by which Holy Scripture confirms this truth; let us content ourselves with listening to the living oracle of Incarnate Wisdom. What did Our Lord answer the curious man in the Gospel who asked Him, "Lord, is it only a few to be saved?" Did He keep silence? Did He answer haltingly? Did He conceal His thought for fear of frightening the crowd? No. Questioned by only one, He addresses all of those present. He says to them: "You ask Me if there are only few who are saved?" Here is My answer: "Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Who is speaking here? It is the Son of God, Eternal Truth, who on another occasion says even more clearly, "Many are called, but few are chosen." He does not say that all are called and that out of all men, few are chosen, but that many are called; which means, as Saint Gregory explains, that out of all men, many are called to the True Faith, but out of them few are saved. Brothers, these are the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Are they clear? They are true. Tell me now if it is possible for you to have faith in your heart and not tremble.
Salvation in the Various States of Life
But oh, I see that by speaking in this manner of all in general, I am missing my point. So let us apply this truth to various states, and you will understand that you must either throw away reason, experience and the common sense of the faithful, or confess that the greater number of Catholics is damned. Is there any state in the world more favorable to innocence in which salvation seems easier and of which people have a higher idea than that of priests, the lieutenants of God? At first glance, who would not think that most of them are not only good but even perfect; yet I am horror-struck when I hear Saint Jerome declaring that although the world is full of priests, barely one in a hundred is living in a manner in conformity with state; when I hear a servant of God attesting that he has learned by revelation that the number of priests who fall into hell each day is so great that it seemed impossible to him that there be any left on earth; when I hear Saint Chrysostom exclaiming with tears in his eyes, "I do not believe that many priests are saved; I believe the contrary, that the number of those who are damned is greater."
Look higher still, and see the prelates of the Holy Church, pastors who have the charge of souls. Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Cantimpre; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions. There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said, "Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, 'We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favor, when you shall be with us in Hell.'" (To be continued next week)