Vatican City, Nov 5, 2013 / 10:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his daily Mass Pope Francis said that at the essence of Christianity is an invitation to the Lord’s feast, emphasizing that we cannot be passive in front of the Lord’s call.
“You are invited to join in the feast, to the joy of being saved, to the joy of being redeemed, to the joy of sharing life with Christ. This is a joy! You are called to a party!” the Pope exclaimed in his Nov. 5 homily.
The reflections of the pontiff were directed at those who were present for his Mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.
Pope Francis began his homily by observing that the readings of the day reveal the true identity of a Christian, saying that “the Christian essence is an invitation: we only become Christians if we are invited,” adding that this is a “free invitation” from God.
“A Christian is one who is invited,” he reflected, but “Invited to what? To a shop? To take a walk? The Lord wants to tell us something more: You are invited to join in the feast, to the joy of being saved, to the joy of being redeemed, to the joy of sharing life with Christ.”
Using the analogy of a party, the pontiff described this feast as “a gathering of people who talk, laugh, celebrate, are happy together.”
“I have never seen anyone party on their own. That would be boring, no? Opening the bottle of wine…That’s not a feast, it’s something else.”
“You have to party with others,” stressed the Pope, “with the family, with friends, with those who’ve been invited, as I was invited. Being Christian means belonging, belonging to this body, to the people that have been invited to the feast: this is Christian belonging.”
Turning to the verses in Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans for the day’s first reading, Pope Francis clarified that the feast is one “of unity,” highlighting how all are invited, “the good and the bad.”
“The Church is not the Church only for good people,” he explained, stressing that it is the marginalized who will be invited first.
“Do we want to describe who belongs to the Church, to this feast? The sinners. All of us sinners are invited,” he stated, detailing how at this point we each bring diverse gifts as a community.
“We all have qualities and strengths,” noted the Pope, “but each of us brings to the feast a common gift. Each of us is called to participate fully in the feast. Christian existence cannot be understood without this participation.”
“‘I go to the feast, but I don’t go beyond the antechamber, because I want to be only with the three or four people that I familiar with…’ You can’t do this in the Church! You either participate fully or you remain outside.”
“You can’t pick and choose,” proclaimed the pontiff, “the Church is for everyone, beginning with those I’ve already mentioned, the most marginalized. It is everyone’s Church!”
The Pope then spoke of the day’s gospel passage in which Jesus tells the parable of the man who had a feast and invited many, but they made excuses not to come, lamenting that “They don’t accept the invitation! They say ‘yes,’ but their actions say ‘no.’”
These are the Christians who “are content to be on the guest list,” which is not enough, because if we do not participate then we are not really a Christian, he warned.
“You were on the list,” he declared, “but this isn’t enough for salvation! This is the Church: to enter into the Church is a grace; to enter into the Church is an invitation” which cannot be purchased.
To enter into the Church “means to be responsible for those things that the Lord asks of us,” explained the Pope, emphasizing that “No one is the protagonist of the Church,” but that rather, “we have ONE” who has done everything.
“God is the protagonist! He who does not follow Him is the one who excuses himself.”
“The Lord is very generous,” added the pontiff, and he understands when we say to him “‘No, Lord, I don’t want to go to you.’”
Jesus understands and waits for those people because he is merciful, Pope Francis expressed, but he “does not like those who say ‘yes’ and do the opposite, who have good manners, but go their own way and do not follow the way of the Lord.”
It is these people, he continued, “who do not know joy, who don’t experience the joy of belonging.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily by urging those in attendance to pray for the “grace of understanding,” reflecting that “how beautiful it is to be invited to the feast, how beautiful it is to take part in it and to share one’s qualities.”
“How beautiful it is to be with Him and how wrong it is to dither between ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ to say ‘yes,’ but to be satisfied merely with being a nominal Christian.”
How different is this message of His Holiness Pope Francis – from that issued by the Anglican Gafcon Prelates at their recent meeting in Nairobi. This is an open invitation to ALL to join him in the feast of the Kingdom of God.
“The Church is not the Church only for good people,” he explained, stressing that it is the marginalized who will be invited first.”
Gafcon, sadly, is more exclusive in its invitation, majoring on the difference between their standards required for entrance to the Feast, and those required by what they consider to be the far too inclusive Church in the West.
One Message is attractive and gracious, and will draw people to Christ; and one is not.
I leave you to guess which is which is the more engaging, and likely to be recognised as an invitation from God – to “Come to the Party“.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand