Homilette for Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, bishop

(Luke 14:15-24)

There is a story about an African-American who meets God outside of a church. He apologizes to the Lord saying that he wants to enter the church but the people inside won’t let him in. God responds that He too has been trying to get inside that church for years but the people won’t let Him in either.

The story represents a valid way of reading today’s gospel parable. At one time, not that long ago, most American churches were segregated. African-Americans were either prohibited from entering a white congregation or forced to sit apart. This might not have been the pastor’s wish, but it was, in many places, a de facto practice. Jesus, of course, would never accept such an arrangement. We can rightly hear him comparing the segregationists to those who are invited to the great Eucharistic banquet at the end of time but who refuse to attend. Blacks and the poor will then take their places in heaven.

Today, however, we can interpret the parable in a different light. As everyone knows, attendance in Catholic Churches has decreased somewhat over the last forty years. Those who no longer attend give excuses that sound similar to the ones we hear in the parable – they are too busy; they are working; they are expecting company. Others though have replaced them so that Catholic masses are still relatively full on Sundays. These are the people who will also occupy places at the Eucharistic banquet in heaven. The newcomers are largely immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Africa.