Thursday, October 6, 2011

Without a wedding garment - Faith without works

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 22:1-14
My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?
Though all people are invited to the wedding banquet, only a few come. And, even from among those who do attend, at least one is cast out. Our Savior’s parable from this Sunday’s Gospel should give us pause – for he is speaking of the mystery of salvation and damnation.
Many are called, few are chosen. But what exactly does our Lord mean when he warns us that those who attempt to come to the feast without a “wedding garment” will be cast out and rejected? What is the significance of this garment, and how do we don it?

The significance of the wedding feast
As the Fathers of the Church consider this parable, they recognize that our Savior is speaking both to the end of the world and also the particular judgment of each man. The master of the house (who is God) has invited some to the feast, but when they reject him, he sends his servants to go and invite all those wandering throughout the world, both the good and the bad.
In this, we are to recognize that God first established his covenant with the people of Israel, but they ultimately rejected him (as a nation, though many individuals did accept the Christ). After the Jews stumbled, the covenant (now made new in the Son) was extended to the Gentiles, both to the good and to the bad – and thus the hall was filled with guests.
Up to this point, the parable is fairly clear. However, we then come to the question of the wedding garment – why is it that the man without the garment is rejected and thrown out into the darkness (i.e. why is he condemned to hell)?
Faith without works is dead
St. Gregory the Great explains: “The marriage is the wedding of Christ and his church, and the garment is the virtue of charity: a person who goes into the feast without a wedding garment is someone who believes in the Church but does not have charity.” (In Evan. Homil. 36)
Some, especially among certain protestants, would attempt to interpret this garment as referring to faith, but this cannot be. All those who enter into the feast have faith, and even this man who entered without the garment. This man was a member of the Church while alive on earth, but when he died and came to the particular judgment (i.e. when the king came to meet his guests), he was found to be wanting and was expelled from the Church and cast into hell.
From this we see that faith alone is not efficacious unto salvation, something more is needed. This “something more” is the wedding garment of charity. One who has faith but has not love has a dead faith which does not save. As St. James tells us, Faith without works (that is, without charity) is dead.
And so we see that the garment is not the sacrament of baptism, nor is it faith, but it is supernatural charity (given in baptism and preserved by all in the state of grace) without which no man can be saved.

NOTE: As I will be on vacation from October 3rd through the 14th, the comment box will be closed. It will be opened from the 15th.


paul b said...

One first has to define faith. The ability to believe in the unseen, that which cannot be comprehended by natural law. If one is granted this state of existence (the invitation) by God and ACCEPTS IT (this is wedding garment) his vessel would be acceptable to receive the Holy Spirit. This is the wedding (the marriage between God and man).

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Paul, you do violence to language. Faith is not an "ability". It is a reality in the soul (a vitue) which gives an ability.
Faith is also not a "state of existence". The state of grace is a state, mortal sin can also be spoken of as a state of existence.
All those who were at the wedding (this man included) accepted the invitation - to say otherwise is to contradict scripture.
So, this man had faith, but lacked charity (the wedding garment). And the protestant who claim faith alone are terribly wrong.

Paul B said...

Yes you are correct but, one must have the ability to perceive the supernatural as reality. Humans do not have that ability it is a gift from God. When God Grants us this ability then we are able to have faith. If we act on this faith then we have virtue. Jesus said “if you had a little faith you could move mountains”
You are correct I did not say faith was the only form of existence. One can accept deviations from the truth and accept it as truth. I was speaking of accepting the word of God as truth.
Yes the man accepted the invitation (the ability to perceive the word as truth) but rejected it for some deviation of the truth. (so he was not wearing the garment)
Whether it is faith alone or works the question is similar to what came first the chicken or the eggs. The final result was the same. You know what Jesus said “the harvest is great but the labors are few”

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You do not know what you are saying. Faith is a virtue, namely a theological virtue infused by God. It is not a "state". None of the saints or fathers think the garment is faith, but rather charity.

Paul B said...

Father I am a 68 year old construction worker, yes I do violence to language, as you say but If you think I do violence to the language try going to the construction sites I have worked on for the past 50 years. I do have a very difficult time expressing myself.
It may be my ignorance but it seems you do not take the time to understand what I am trying to say. It seems you are more interest in terminology than communicating.
I try to attend Mass every day. I go early sit in silence and listen to what God wants to tell me. Most of the time the sermon the Priest gives is much different then what God tells me. I thought that perhaps I could use this forum to have some sort of dialog concerning the difference. I guess not.

Yes faith is one of the 7 virtues and is one given by God. I believe I said this when I said “one must have the ability to perceive the supernatural as reality. Humans do not have that ability it is a gift from God. When God grants us this ability then we are able to have faith. If we act on this faith then we have virtue”
I think the word” state” is the stumbling block. What I was trying to say is when you receive the gift of faith and act on it you are on a higher level, position, place in your existence. That is what I meant by state of existence.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

When one has faith and further possesses charity so as to make that faith to be living, then he is in a "state" - the state of grace. But it is charity present in the soul which is represented by the garment, not merely faith. And it is santifying grace, and true charity which this man lacked - not so much faith.

I cannot say it any more clearly than that.

Paul B said...

Have a good night and my God be with your spirit

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