One free evening a few days ago I watched the new documentary “David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet”. Many of you may know this famed explorer and natural historian and have watched his amazing documentaries over the years. In this latest documentary which he calls his “witness statement”, he recounts how the planet’s biodiversity has diminished mapping it across the span of his 60-year career as a naturalist. Sir David Attenborough has a wonderful way of presenting not only the mysteries of human life but also of all the other inhabitants of this planet, our common home. His documentaries never grow old because each time you watch them, there is always a new mystery uncovered and a different takeaway to ponder upon.
In the gospel reading from recent Sundays, we hear Jesus speaking in parables. Parables have a unique way of illustrating the mysteries of God and they are timeless. In fact, each time one reads and reflects on a parable, there is a fresh and different perspective for consideration.
Ironically in this Sunday’s gospel, we can draw similar parallels from the parable of the Wedding Feast to the current context we are in. It was not only difficult for the chief priests and the elders of the people to hear what Jesus had to say but equally difficult in this pandemic for quite a few couples among us who had planned their weddings for months and had to scale down or possibly even postpone. While, the parable of the Wedding Feast speaks about inviting as many people to the feast, quite distinctly couples preparing for weddings in in this pandemic period are confronted with the difficult situation of having to decide who to now invite and who to exclude in view of latest restrictions.
On the other hand, the parable that we hear today could not have come at a better time and I invite you to reflect on it with a different lens. In Jewish life, the wedding banquet is one of the most joyous occasions and could last for up to a week. It was an alliance that was celebrated by the whole neighbourhood and not just a select few. In this parable, the king is God the Father, and the son who is being honoured at the banquet is Jesus Christ. For us today, we can liken that wedding feast to the celebration of the Holy Mass when we honour the mystery of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
With the unrelenting pandemic, quite a number of us have not returned or are unable to get to the “wedding feast” not because we cannot get in or that we are not dressed for it but because there isn’t one to attend in view of the suspension of public Masses. Just when we thought that some sense of normalcy was gradually resuming, we are once again challenged with another round of restrictions.
As we re-opened our church doors a few months ago, we also observed a significant reduction in the number of parishioners returning for Mass for multiple reasons. Some were initially excluded for legitimate reasons while quite a number have become accustomed to a “lazy Sunday” – a cause for worry as we see an increasing trend or preference towards online participation – Mass at a click of a button. When many of us woke up to the news of public Masses being suspended, I could almost hear quite a few people thinking, “Where shall I go this Sunday since I don’t have to go to Church?”
Though the pandemic and movement controls have put restrictions on us from going to Church, there seems to be another by-product of this pandemic that is concerning – the loss of spiritual fervour. This sense of lukewarm-ness that we are seeing especially with regards to returning to Church is not what that “wedding feast” is all about. Just as much as the wedding feast in Jewish communities were communal, the Holy Eucharist is fundamentally communal and surely not virtual.
Sir Attenborough has shown us the mysteries of God through creation, but nothing replaces the experience of partaking in the mysteries of God through the sacrifice of Jesus relived through the Holy Mass. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “Am I falling into a trap of complacency, reluctant or avoiding the return to church for physical Mass purely on the grounds of convenience?” It is very important to recognise and be conscious of the triggers in life that keep us away from attending the “wedding feast”.
We need to remain alert and vigilant to the distractions all around knowing that the Lord has prepared a holy banquet for us and is inviting us. For those who seek Him, He will remove all mourning, wipe every tear away and take away our shame. God sends us invitations again and again. Have we accepted His invitation? RSVP soon!