Today we honour the memory of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, perhaps the most notable religious character of the 12th century. Bernard’s life and influence in the Church was more active than we can imagine possible today. His efforts at reconciliation between popes and princes produced far-reaching results. But he knew that his efforts would have achieved little without the many hours of prayer and contemplation that brought him strength and direction. His life was characterized by a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. His sermons and books about Our Lady are still the standard of Marian theology today. Saint Bernard died at Clairvaux in 1153 and was canonised in 1174.
Imagine you are hosting a fabulous party. You watch as the guests enter to celebrate with you. They’re all wearing their Sunday best—all except for one chap, who has shown up completely unkempt and bedraggled. He looks like he just rolled out of bed. How would you respond? Would you feel upset, or even insulted? You might even want to do what the king in today’s parable did: have that disrespectful guest thrown out into the street.
In Our Lord’s parable, which is difficult for us to fully understand, the people who came to the wedding banquet weren’t even the original guests. The first guests refused to come, and some even murdered the servants who brought the invitation.
The moral of the parable is: “Many are called, but few are chosen”. Our Lord suggests that some who are invited to the banquet in heaven won’t be granted admission. Why not? Because despite the very generous invitation, they chose not to put on the clean “white robe” of holiness—or because they have allowed their robe to become stained with un-repented sin. This is why repentance—and more specifically the Sacrament of Reconciliation—is such a precious gift. Absolved of our sins, we are once more made as clean as on the day of our baptism. We are once more made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Keeping our robe spotless is more than just a life insurance policy. For one thing, the benefits of repentance come in this lifetime, not the next. When we repent of our sins, God removes the chains of guilt that held us bound. No longer enslaved to sin, we can experience true happiness and peace and we can grow in our love of God. And so it stands to reason that we should avoid sin and repent quickly when we do. Clothed in that robe of righteousness, let us enjoy an anticipation of that wedding feast where we will be happy for all eternity.