Do you remember the last time you went to a Baptism? If it wasn’t too long ago and you can remember what happened, then the Gospel today might make more sense.
At a Baptism, we can distinguish two elements of faith and charity. Faith, either of the parents of the newly baptized child or even the beginnings or stirrings of faith of an adult seeking Baptism, is what brings us to the baptismal font. Faith accepts God’s invitation to come.
We can distinguish that first acceptance of God’s invitation in faith from the infusion of the theological virtues, faith, hope and especially charity. At Baptism, God infuses his own charity in a soul. With sin washed away, the newly baptized has an infusion of God’s love—of theological charity.
In the Gospel passage today, we find the interplay of faith and charity. You could read this passage in a way that does not seem fair. The man didn’t know he was coming to the wedding. He came when he was invited, but since he was not properly dressed, is thrown out. What’s going on here? Needless to say, the meaning is not about dress code and proper attire. Rather, it is a reflection about faith and charity.
Like so often in the Scriptures, the wedding banquet we hear about today symbolizes the judgment of God. Entrance into the wedding requires faith, accepting the invitation to come. It doesn’t so much matter if you come early or late, at the beginning or not until the end. If you are there—if you are even at the table—it is because you have faith. You have accepted God’s invitation and His offer of mercy.
The wedding garment symbolizes charity—the essential quality to remain at the banquet. Without the garment—without charity—the man is expelled. At our judgment we need faith to accept God’s invitation and we need charity in order to remain bonded to Him. That is really what it means to be in a state of grace—to remain united to God in theological charity. Our poorly dressed wedding guest in the Gospel today was a man of faith. He accepted God’s invitation to come to the wedding, but he lacked what was necessary to stay. His lack of the wedding garment is a symbol of his not coming to meet God full of love. He had faith but not charity.
Faith and charity are words that get thrown around a lot. Sometimes people will speak of faith as a kind of general recognition of a spiritual world—i.e., that person has a lot of faith. But that isn’t quite right. Faith is the acceptance of what God has revealed. God has spoken and in faith we believe Him. In faith we believe what His Church teaches. The person of faith accepts what God has said and what His Church has taught.
Charity—theological charity—is God’s love. Charity is what God gives us in Baptism; His very life infused into our soul. Charity is the way God loves, not the shallow kindnesses or tolerance prized by our culture. Authentic charity is the way God loves—self-giving, self-sacrificing, courageous loving in the truth. Charity is what is lost in grave sin and restored in the sacrament of Penance.
Today’s Gospel isn’t about shining your shoes or wearing a necktie. It is about Catholic faith and theological charity—faith to accept what the Lord reveals and charity to love it and live it.
Put simply, we need faith to come to the wedding, but we need charity to stay for the party.