28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, October 15th, 2017

I had just completed a wedding rehearsal and was standing outside the church.  A warm August evening, I was dressed in a short-sleeved shirt.  The rehearsal dinner was to happen at a golf and country club nearby and I was planning to attend.  Getting ready to leave, the bride’s mother pulled me aside and whispered that I needed to wear a sports jacket to get into the country club.  It was part of their dress code.  This meant I would need to return home and retrieve the one sports jacket I owned at the time.   Miffed, I was tempted to excuse myself, yet conformed; never one to miss out on a good meal.

Is this what is happening to the man at the end of today’s gospel, this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time?   Was he breaking a dress code in Palestine at the time?  I don’t believe so.  Jesus was not ‘into’ appearance.  Recall his words to the Pharisees, calling them “whitened sepulchers”; bringing to light their obsession with religious observance and the externals of the Law.   So, what is the meaning behind this man, caught without a wedding garment?

Words by St. Paul in the Letter to the Colossians (3:12-14) help us arrive at the meaning.  There, Paul reminds us that “we have been clothed with Christ”; a metaphor of discipleship and the virtuous life.  As Christians, our lives are more and more becoming in God’s eyes when they are clothed “with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, patience.”  Though he showed up, the man in the gospel was somehow lacking in a virtuous life.  Following Christ involves much more than showing up and going through the motions.  That will never free us.  The Christian path has been called the “interior life”, and for a reason.  To be life-giving it must involve more than a pose.

After my first year in monastic life (postulancy), I went through the Clothing ceremony; clothed as I was in the monastic habit.  Usually, but not always, a postulant is fitted for a new habit.  I wasn’t, however, and was told that I would receive a used one.  I remember thinking:  “Story of my life!”  Growing up, I often wore my cousin Pete’s hand-me-downs.  The robe and scapular I was to receive was frayed and not in the best condition.  I was not too happy, concerned with appearance as I was at the time.  Shortly before the ceremony, I had a dream one night.  I was kneeling before the Founding Abbot, Dom Columban.  His smile was radiant.  I had never met him in this life since he died a few years before I entered.  However, his framed photo could be found in the Scriptorium.  He began to clothe me in the monastic habit that was patched and in terrible condition.  Yet, I didn’t mind due to the interior joy that   covered me inside and out in that moment; reflected in his smile.    So, on the day of my Clothing, I was at peace because of that dream.  It was a wake-up call to what truly matters in God’s eyes.  Perhaps, this is why monasticism is called the “hidden life”.

 Being Christian involves more than just showing up as did the man in today’s gospel.  It involves more than going through the motions.  Its meaning is more vast and deeper than that; countercultural as it is and within a society obsessed with appearance.  Following Christ involves transformation:  being brought to my knees, somehow, and accepting the patchwork life given me.  It’s the way we begin to be clothed with Christ who humbled himself for the sake of us all.  It is then we awake to an “unfelt joy, an unfelt peace” that comes from within.

Father Tim Clark, Pastor


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