I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Psalm 51:10-13, 16-17
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Have you ever sought out a teacher or a mentor in your field and then had the great success of that person taking you on as a student? It may not be as dramatic as in the movie, The Karate Kid, but most of us have had the experience of being accepted as someone’s student. It is a comforting thing when your teacher or mentor or professor takes you on. You know you are in good hands. You know you are going to be molded, you know it is going to be hard work, you know you are going to undergo change and see progress and that it will all be worth it so that you can accomplish your goals and become the person you desire to be.
Our first reading and psalm should be great comforts to us as people of God. It is God taking us on as his people. He is going to be our teacher. We are going to be molded, it is going to be hard work, we are going to see change, feel the pain of old ways going away, and watch the steady new growth of God’s ways within us. We are in the best hands with him. He knows who he has always meant each one of us to be, and he knows who he has always meant his whole people to be.
But we are required to hold up our end of the bargain. He cannot be our God if we will not be his people. A teacher cannot teach the unwilling. We have to bend ourselves to his will and allow him to mold us. Our psalmist says that God does not despise a broken and contrite heart. How can we expect God to work in us if our hearts are still bound up and not open to his leading?
The sad truth is, we have a choice. While we cannot expect all the benefits of God’s grace when we choose to live outside of his will, we always have the choice between blessedness and cursedness. We can choose life or death for our souls. Ultimately, our God is a just judge. If we live outside of his laws, he will only allow us to inflict ourselves on the world for so long. He will ask about the wedding garment. He will ask us why we have flaunted his good gifts without giving anything back to him. He will come to the aid of the defenseless, of those who have done his will, and he will remove the evildoers from their midst.
Today, we ask for docility of spirit for ourselves and for our entire Church. If God is willing to take us on again as his people, we ask for him to purify us and make us new. We must be willing to bend to God’s teaching and not make up our own laws or attempt to put words in God’s mouth. As we ask for God to work in our hearts, we ask that God continue to mold and purify the Church. May our God bring his justice and mercy to all who turn to him with broken and contrite hearts. May he purify us all and make us into a people after his own heart. Amen.