Forming a Face

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October 9, 2011

Matthew 22:1-14

Did your mother ever say to you, “Don’t make that face or it’s going to freeze like that forever”? Well, there might be more truth than first appears in this rather manipulative approach to parenting. Ronald Rolheiser has suggested that we, as humans, actually create our own faces. Rolheiser states that we are born without a face. Babies are cute and adorable but their faces do not betray any of the individuality or character that will someday develop in their lives. So if a baby is beautiful, it is the result of genetics alone. But as we begin to grow, our face begins to appear. It begins to show traits of character, personality, and attitude. Rolheiser says that around the age of 40, the lines of most people’s faces are set. From that age onward, every face betrays a certain character, a certain personality, and a certain kind of beauty.

Now the importance of these ruminations is that our faces reveal our lives. The choices we make and the people that we are become more and more displayed in the faces that are ours. Up to about 40, it’s pure genetics. This is why you can be a jerk and beautiful at the same time! But after 40, the face begins to show the choices and characteristics of our true selves. If you are a petty, mean, narrow, judgmental and prejudiced person, it is going to show up in your face. If, on the other hand, you are a generous, warm, forgiving, and loving person, that is going to show in your face as well. The older that we get, the more that our faces reveal who we are. It becomes easier for others to see our character in the faces that we wear.

This provides for us a telling connection to today’s gospel. At the end of the gospel a man is thrown out of the wedding feast for not wearing a wedding garment. Now, what is a wedding garment? A wedding garment is clothing that is appropriate for a wedding. Certainly the man who was thrown out was wearing something. But whatever he was wearing was not suitable for the feast. It is a common interpretation of the parable that the Wedding Feast stands for the Kingdom of God. If that is the case, then the wedding garment signifies those virtues and characteristics that are appropriate for the Kingdom of God, the garb we should be wearing if we are to fit into the feast. We could try to come into the Kingdom of God with prejudice and selfishness, with pride and greed, with anger and judgment. We would be wearing something, but it would not be a wedding garment because those qualities are not appropriate for the Banquet of Christ.

Each day, you and I are weaving another part of the garment we will wear at the Feast of the Lamb. The parable today wants to make sure that the garment that we are weaving is a wedding garment, a garment suitable for the feast. The older that we get, the more the garment is finished and the clearer it is to others how we will be dressed on the last day. So the parable is a warning, a warning that we choose carefully the garments that we are weaving and the faces that we are forming. Today, then, should be the day that we choose thankfulness over jealousy, generosity over greed, and openness over prejudice. Today should be the day that we reach out and try to make peace with an enemy, rejoice with someone who loves us, or give ourselves in service to those in need.

After the age of 40, there are no more poker faces. It becomes clearer and clearer the choices that we have made and the people who we are. That is why the older that we become the more important it is to make our choices carefully. There are fewer opportunities to build our character and to change our face. At the end of our lives when we enter heaven and throw open the doors of the wedding feast, we will come up to the Lord and say, “Jesus, I’m here!” How sad would it be if Jesus would look at our face and say, “My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?”

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