In the parable of this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus is pretty clearly saying that his invitation of salvation goes out to everyone. He is also pretty clear that, sadly, some will ultimately refuse his invitation. Obviously, this is a complex topic and requires much discussion. On the one hand, we believe that heaven is real and that Jesus gives us all the means necessary (the sacraments foremost among them) to eventually be with him in heaven. On the other hand, we do not believe that heaven is something that will be automatically granted to us after Baptism. The Baptism ritual expresses this beautifully, when a child receives his white garment (another reference to this weekend’s Gospel) and a lit candle. In both cases, the child, his parents, and his godparents are exhorted to preserve the dignity of Baptism, and the cleansed state that it confers, and to bring it to eternal life. Of course, we know that we rely on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) to restore that dignity when we fall into sin.
While the sacraments are certainly our most potent and most necessary helps on our pilgrimage through this life, Jesus is presenting us in this weekend’s Gospel with another instrument that is meant to help us on the way of salvation. This instrument is the reality that we do not walk the journey of this life alone. That is, as a parish community within the larger reality of the whole Catholic Church, we are able to help each other stay focused on the Lord’s invitation to the wedding feast of heaven: “Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find’” (Mt. 22:9).
Of course, each of us is not able to reach out to everyone that we find. However, we are able to reach out to those we already know. In fact, I am convinced that there is great benefit to the practice of gathering regularly with a small group of friends to learn more about our Catholic faith together. This includes sharing our own experiences of what Jesus has done in our own lives, how we have carried our crosses, how we have grown spiritually, etc.
Upon hearing this, we often fret. “I’m so busy, Father; there’s no way I could add one more thing to my schedule!” I understand! But don’t worry- it is easy to gather with a group of people you already know- perhaps once per month or so- over lunch, dinner, desserts, or at whatever time works best for everyone. In fact, you could even get together online via Zoom, Skype, or whatever other program you prefer. Again, the purpose is to grow together in our Catholic faith.
The best part is that you really don’t even have to plan much in advance. With all of the resources available through our parish FORMED subscription (you don’t have to pay anything), you could gather to watch one of the videos/video series and simply discuss the video afterward. If you need assistance logging on to FORMED with our parish subscription, feel free to call the parish office. Of course, you don’t have to use the resources on FORMED if your group prefers to do something else.
I encourage everyone in our parish to consider gathering with some friends to grow together in the faith. The first time you gather, I recommend that each person answer three questions: 1) Who/what can we pray for right now? 2) What is your story? 3) What has Jesus done in your life? You might be amazed at how Jesus will bless your efforts to grow spiritually together and how much fruit might be brought about from your discussions.
In the past, these types of groups have been given the plain appellation of “small groups.” I personally prefer to think of them as “Emmaus Groups.” Why Emmaus? Because it was on the road to Emmaus that two disciples encountered the Risen Christ together: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Lk. 24:32). It was their actual encounter with Jesus that caused them to run into Jerusalem and tell others what Jesus had done for them. Are we not called to do the same?
Blessings to you all!