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  • Luigi Gioia

Choosing The Right Clothes

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I don't know if this only happens to me, but however much care I take in choosing trousers, shirt, shoes, socks and jacket when I'm invited to dinner by someone, I cannot get over a certain trepidation until I reach my host’s home, find out how the other guests are dressed, and can reassure myself that I have not erred by excess nor by defect. This sounds like vanity - and in my case it certainly is - but it can also be considered an expression of regard for my host and of the desire to contribute to the creation of a pleasant environment for everyone. If we invite each other, both ordinarily for a meal, and for the special occasions of our life such as weddings, it is because a celebration is truly successful only when the friendships, affections, relationships that give meaning, value and beauty to our life converge in it. The clothes we wear for these occasions ("the wedding dress" of today's Gospel), the care with which we choose them, then become a symbol of the value we attribute to these relationships and a way of celebrating them.

In the Gospel as in the whole of the Old Testament, weddings are an image of the type of relationship that the Lord ceaselessly tries to create with everyone of us.

I marry or accept to live together only with a person whom I consider unique in the world, who matters to me more than anyone else, with whom I want to live forever and share everything I have and I am. Likewise, God chooses us personally, as if each one of us were the only person in the world, he loves us as we are, not as we should or would like to be, he wishes to be part of every aspect of our life and let us participate in every aspect of his.

This context is indispensable to understand the final sentence of the Gospel: "Many are called, but few are chosen (eclektoi in Greek)" (Mt 22.14) as well as the embarrassing scene of the guest reprimanded by the king for not wearing the wedding dress.

How should we interpret the idea that the eclektoi, the chosen ones or the “elect” are only few? "Election" entails consent, with all that this entails when it refers not to a thing but to a person. When I say to a person "I choose you", I agree to bind, intertwine, unite my whole life to his or hers. Tirelessly, Scripture assures us that God chooses us in this way, and not just some of us, but absolutely each and everyone of us – as we are told by Paul when he states that "God chose us before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1.4), and by God himself through the prophet Jeremiah when he affirms: "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31.3).

If there are few chosen ones, it is not because God chooses only some of us, but because only some of us choose God, only some of us show concern about what to wear to please God, that is, by clothing ourselves, as Paul says, "with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience ”(Colossians 3.12).

Yet, however much we try to clothe ourselves with these feelings towards each other as an expression of our choice of God, of our covenant with him, of his importance for us and for our life, the truth is that most of the time we fail, or we succeed too little, and often unwittingly we find ourselves empty-handed - we find ourselves wearing the wrong robe.

If we read between the lines of the Gospel, however, we realize that the real problem is not the inadequacy of our dress and that in any case it could not have been otherwise. The people who finally accept the king's invitation are those the servants found on the street, good and bad (Mt 22.10). If we find ourselves at a wedding wearing the wrong clothes it is precisely because God calls everyone, chooses everyone, wants everyone in, and takes us as we are and wherever we are.

The problem of the guest improperly dressed is another – and we can infer it from his reaction: when the king speaks to him, he falls silent (Mt 22.12). The king calls him "friend", greets him, tries to enter into a dialogue with him, but this guest does not respond because he is afraid and closes in on himself. He ends up without a wedding dress only because he does not understand that it would have been enough for him to answer to the king just as the many other scriptural characters who found themselves in analogous situations did - that is, simply by acknowledging: “I want to believe, help me to overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 ). If he had done so, straight away he would have found himself clothed in the right dress, that is, with the "feelings of humility" of which Paul speaks. This is the way in which we too can be numbered among the elects, the chosen ones, that is by entrusting ourselves to the loving faithfulness of the Father who has chosen us, and rely on it alone.




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