Reduced to Silence
Homily for Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Psalm fifty-one, the great penitential Psalm, appears in today’s lectionary readings as our responsorial. The verses chosen for today begin with: “A clean heart create for me, O God.” This particular verse intrigues me because of the fact that the Hebrew verb used in this verse can only be used when God is the subject. Only God can create a clean heart. Human beings are capable of creation as is evidenced by the many artists to produce lovely paintings, intricate sculptures, and even mechanical devices that are our so-called timesavers. When it comes to the desire to create a clean heart for the sinner, only God is capable of doing so.
In today’s reading from the prophet Ezekiel, and oracle is proclaimed that speaks of the future reality when God will gather together all the chosen people and will remove their stubborn hearts and replace them with natural hearts. Once again, the prophet Ezekiel makes reference to the fact that the old covenant was written on stone while the new covenant will be written on the hearts of God’s people.
All of us have known stubborn people. All of us have been stubborn ourselves. We choose not to change, to turn toward the Lord. Conversion has never been easy. When we read the life of St. Francis of Assisi, it becomes evident that even in his case, conversion took time. His biographers relate this process of conversion by referencing his clothing. As the biography progresses, Francis sheds more and more of his clothing until he is clad in a beggar’s tunic tied with a rope. His conversion comes to a climax on the day of his death when he asks his brothers to lay his naked body on the ground outside the Portiuncula. This dramatic request signals his total conversion to the Lord.
By coincidence, we also read today the story of the man who entered the wedding feast improperly dressed. As a result, he is bound hand and foot and cast out all the celebration. Each time I read this story, I am forced to pause when the evangelist writes: “But he was reduced to silence.” He offers nothing – no explanation, no apology, and no confession. This was his undoing. Had he only confessed his mistake and offered sorrow for his improper attire, the king would have provided him with the necessary garment.
As we come before the Lord in every Eucharist, we begin by expressing our sorrow for sin. In this fashion we are ready to celebrate the great sign of God’s love for us, reconciled and forgiven.