BY: Fr. Robert DeLeon Csc

Matthew 25:1-13
By means of a wedding parable in the day’s Gospel passage, Jesus teaches about heaven and our readiness to enter into that great and eternal wedding banquet. The parable peaks with an exclamation and an invitation, “At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’” (Matthew 25:6). The lesson for each of us is this: Christ is the Eternal Bridegroom, the Divine Lover, who continually calls each of us into an intimate relationship.

A wedding some years past afforded me a stunning encounter with Christ the Bridegroom. It wasn’t midnight but close enough when the epiphany occurred. Sitting beside me at the reception was the musician who’d played guitar and sung at the wedding earlier that evening. Most of the guests having already departed, we two remained at table where, in quiet conversation, the confession of a divine espousal was revealed.

Tony and Beth having asked me to officiate at their wedding, I wondered what was in store. A once student of mine, Tony and I had kept in loose contact over the years, and now he was asking me to officiate at his wedding. A number of his high school classmates, all my students in days of yore, would be present, and I was excited to see them and hear what had become of their lives. Supposing that most were now married and raising children of their own, I mused on their imagined experiences as parents, this group who, as teenagers, had challenged me in the classroom. Yes, I was once their teacher and they my students, but no more.

The church near full for Saturday’s 5 PM wedding ceremony, the reception that followed was loud, lively and, for me, abounding in reminiscences with former students. By 10 PM, though, it was just Dan and I seated at the table. Catching up on the many years that separated us, Dan told me about his post-high school education (Ph.D. in chemistry), his job as an industrial scientist, and the happy home he shared with his wife and 4 children. I sat amazed as I remembered the tousled red-headed teenager from so long ago.

Then, his words becoming softer and more tentative, he related his coming to faith just after the birth of his first child. From a large Catholic family himself, Dan humbly confessed his indifference to all things religious during his high school years. Graduate studies in science then led him into a comfortable agnostic haze. Then, though, his first child was born, and he knew what he wanted for this child and those he hoped would follow. He wanted for them what he had spurned as a young man. He wanted them educated and grounded in Catholic faith and values. Turning back now as an adult to the church he’d once forsaken, Dan knew it was only there that his children would find what their father so wanted for them.

St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila—Dan had read them all, he said, seeking to deepen his own wobbly faith. He told me of the Saturday morning men’s prayer group he’d joined, a dozen professional men meditating on the mysteries of the rosary each week. Gaining confidence as he opened his soul, he grew bolder in commenting on the ills of contemporary culture. “We’re just too full of ourselves,” he stated. “We need to be more humble and obedient.” Listening to Dan expound on the strength he now finds in the Catholic Church, I could not clear from my mind the image of the rebellious teen I once knew. Even as he spoke, I offered a prayer of gratitude for what God had done in the life of this young man. Dan must have sensed my wandering thoughts as his fist pounded the table for emphasis, “Jesus is just who he said he is, the Son of God!”

While the music and dancing continued, I arose to leave the reception, wanting some silence with the experience I’d just had. Having been invited to celebrate the marriage of Beth and Tony, the opportunity to spend time with former students was a plus. But there was yet a greater gift, its appearance catching me transfixed as Dan related it, his confident testimony of faith that brought him face to face with Christ the Bridegroom. Dan had gone out to meet him, and Christ now had a firm grasp on his right hand. While I’d been witness to the wedding of Tony and Beth, more wondrous was the espousal I’d glimpsed between Christ and Dan.

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