About a year after I was ordained there was a TV program which interviewed four priests asking them about their experience of priesthood and the Church. I was one of the priests. The reason why I mention it is because I was really struck by the response that I got from people afterwards. Many of the people who wrote to me or phoned me were priests and they nearly all had the same thing to say; they were delighted to hear people being so positive about the Church. They were greatly encouraged. It gave them hope.
It really made me think to myself just how much we need to have hope at the moment. We need a reason to get up in the morning. We need a reason to keep going when we are struggling and most people are struggling a lot of the time. The reason for our hope is that we believe in God and in what God has promised us. We hear so much bad news, how many people have been killed, where the latest war is. A phrase I keep hearing on the news these days is, ‘So just how worried should we be?’ Is it any wonder so many young people have committed suicide in the last few years. They have lost hope, they feel there is nothing to live for and this is very sad.
When you look around you at the moment it would be easy to think that God has lost the battle and that Satan has won. Evil has been victorious and God has been defeated. Could this be possible? In the beginning of St. John’s Gospel it says, ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it’ (Jn 1.6).
The first reading of the mass is a reading of great hope. It is often used at funerals. It is the promise that God has great things in store for us. ‘The Lord will prepare a banquet for his people’. A party, a feast, this is what God has in store for us and we are all the time preparing for that feast, which we call heaven.
When we try to see things through the eyes of faith, we see something different. It doesn’t mean everything is suddenly alright, and all our problems are gone, but it does give us a different perspective. We also begin to realise that much of what seemed impossible before is no longer impossible, because we don’t rely on our own strength, but on God’s power to help us.
Our hope is in God and that’s why even if someone is suffering terribly, or sick, or even if they die, we don’t despair, because we know that God has not abandoned us. We believe that we will see them again. That is the hope our faith gives us.
The Gospel today talks about the wedding feast to which all of us are invited. But then there is the strange part where the King sees a man who has managed to get in without a wedding garment and he is thrown out. What does this mean? One way to understand it is that we cannot take it for granted, or be indifferent about coming into God’s kingdom, about heaven. We have to consciously make a choice for God and we have to try and live accordingly, trying to live as we are asked, making an effort to live as the Lord asks us to. Indifference is not an option and Jesus was very strong about this in his teaching. All of us must make a choice.
On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.