April 2007 - Volume 11, Issue 9

Don't Miss The Celebration

Msgr. Frank Wissel

Photo of a statue of JesusOne of the major differences between Jesus and the elders of Israel was that he enjoyed life more than they did. He was happier than they were. This is not to say that happiness is the ultimate test of character. But everything else being equal, it certainly counts for something. Goodness that is not radiant has something wrong with it.

In the early part of the last century, there was a famous preacher in London named William Inge. He was the dean of St. Paul's Cathedral from 1911 to 1934. His sermons were generally pessimistic in tone and attracted wide attention for their criticism of modern life. One famous person called him "a gloomy man worshiping a gloomy God."

Whether that was true of Mr. Inge, I do not know. I do know that it was not true of Jesus. It is true that he was often at odds with prevailing values, and was not reluctant to criticize the accepted norms of behavior. He recognized and readily acknowledged the dark side of human nature. He warned his contemporaries that sinful ways of living would result in series consequences.

There were times when his eyes blazed with anger and his words burned like fire. He could never be accused of superficial optimism. But the overall impression of his life is that he was a radiant man worshiping a radiant God.

He tells a story in the Gospel about a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. That was our Lord's concept of religion. It was festive; it was fun; it was something to be celebrated.

By contrast, the elders of Israel thought of religion as a duty to be done, an obligation to be met. They were like the people in the story who refused to attend the royal banquet. They were not bad people. They were just busy. More important matters demanded their attention.

One of them had a farm to tend and another had a business to manage. So they ignored the king's invitation and went their way. There was neither time in their schedules nor inclination in their hearts for celebration.

In the telling of this story, Jesus was not demeaning diligent labor. He was simply saying that life is more than a farm or a business. It is also a banquet. It is more than a duty to be done. It is also a privilege to be enjoyed.

Photo of a happy familyHe was reminding his listeners then, and he reminds us now today, not to miss the celebration of life. To do so is one of the most common and tragic of all human failures. How easy it is to get bogged down in the routine of daily living and forget the glory of it all. The tendency is ever with us to spend our days in field or factory and fail to take part in the feast. The difference between these two levels of living can be seen in the area of human relationships. Marriage, for example, often consists of hard work and boring routine. There are chores that must be done over and over again, meals to cook, floors to sweep, beds to make and furniture to dust.

Being married and building a home are not unlike tending a farm or running a business. A large part of it is just plain hard work. And many people never get beyond that level of the relationship. Home life for them is always a duty to be done and rarely, if ever, a privilege to be enjoyed.

Some people, on the other hand, manage to experience these same relationships on a higher level. They do not escape the hard work or boring routine. These will always be a part of what it means to get married and raise a family. But every so often they put on their party clothes and turn their home into a royal banquet hall.

They do not allow their marriage or their family to sink to the level of burdensome obligations. They see their home for what it is: One of God's greatest gifts. It is the place where you can be yourself without fear of rejection. To some people, the building and maintaining of a home is a duty to be done. But it is also a privilege to be celebrated. Let us work hard and celebrate life.