I’d just read this Sunday’s scripture passages and sat at my keyboard to write when my dear husband suggested that we go for a walk. I was reluctant to do so because I already had an idea regarding Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel about a wedding guest who refused to wear the wedding garment provided for him by the host of the celebration. Still, it was a beautiful day. Mike was right about our need to take advantage of the cool temperature, brisk breeze and abundant sunshine. Though life with COVID-19 has robbed us of many of our away-from-home activities, walking outdoors isn’t one of them. With that, I ran downstairs to our mudroom.
As I stooped to tie my sneakers, Mike took a hat from the rack above me and nestled it onto his head. I admit that I giggled a bit as this was the first time he’d worn that particular head covering. It’s a straw fedora he’d purchased some years ago for a vacation. Back then, Mike decided that the hat looked silly and he left it home. As we headed toward the Des Plaines River Trail, I wondered “Why today?” What made Mike change his mind about that hat? With that, I turned my thoughts to the wardrobe issue in Jesus’ parable and to another wardrobe adventure which caused my poor husband even greater consternation…
The moment Mike slipped the engagement ring onto my finger, we began planning our wedding. We booked the church and reception venue and scheduled our marriage prep sessions. Our priest devoted the last session to planning our wedding ceremony. In the mean time, Mike and I assembled our wedding party. My mom fashioned the bridesmaids’ dresses and Mike perused the latest formalwear. Much to my good fortune, our friend Jo Ann agreed to style my hair that day. Everything unfolded quite smoothly until my mother told my stepdad about the tuxedos.
Now, you have to have known my stepdad to understand his reaction. He’d functioned without his mother from the time he was age seven. By fourteen, he was out on his own. Bill’s experiences as a water boy for the Green Bay Packers (Yes, the Packers!) and as a soldier in World War II gave him no training in the art of dressing up. My stepdad considered such things to be folly which he couldn’t afford. Throughout his career as a carpenter, Bill’s wardrobe consisted of enough overalls to get him through the workweek. One certain sign of Bill’s devotion to my mom during their courtship was his willingness to dress up for their dates. He actually wore a new suit on their wedding day. A tuxedo, or “monkey suit,” in Bill’s words, was too much. He informed my mother that a suit would work just fine for Mike’s and my wedding day as well. Needless to say, there was much ado about what my stepdad considered to be nothing over the months to come. As the day to be fitted for those tuxedos approached, Mike paced with sweaty palms, fretting over his soon-to-be father-in-law’s lack of cooperation. Mike wondered why Bill was so stubborn about this. Bill was the one who would appear in the church with the bride on his arm. Why wouldn’t he give in?
I admit that my mom and I had a few good laughs at poor Mike’s expense. I knew that my mom had smitten Bill without his knowing and that he would do anything for her. I also knew that Bill’s gruff exterior was a remnant of the pain which had punctuated his past far too frequently. My mom and I both knew that my stepdad was devoted to her and to me, the daughter he would soon give over to someone else’s care. My mom and I also knew that coercion never budged Bill when his mind was made up. In light of all of this, we decided to assume the best. The evening before Mike and the groomsmen were to be fitted for their tuxedos, I approached Bill. “Daddy, the guys are going for their tuxes tomorrow night. Can you meet them at seven o’clock?” Bill peeked over his glasses with a smile and said, “I’ll be there.”
There is a man in today’s gospel (Matthew 22:1-14) who gets into all kinds of trouble with a wedding host because he doesn’t bother to put on the appropriate dress. He refuses to wear the garment provided for him and, therefore, to enter fully into the celebration with everyone else. I’m sorry that this man didn’t have access to my stepdad’s counsel. Bill would have told him that the wedding garment would certainly be uncomfortable. However, Bill would also have told that man one other sure thing. With the same smile he sported as we walked the aisle together, Bill would say, “Just put the thing on and you’ll make them happier than you’ll ever know. You’ll be happy, too!”
When I asked Mike why he wore his fedora for our walk that day, he said that it was actually comfortable and that it kept him cool as we plodded along. “I should have taken it on that vacation,” he added. You know, every day, God graciously offers each one of us something special. Rather than a wedding garment or a fedora, God offers us opportunities to enter fully into the celebration of this life. When we wrap ourselves in the fabric of humankind and weave ourselves into the lives of those we’ve been given to love, we wear our own fedoras and wedding garments. Clothed in love, we experience the joy of this life to the fullest and we share it with those around us. Clothed in that love, we also prepare for the best celebration of all, the one God’s planning for you and me.
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