Once upon a time there was a young logger who needed work. He was skilled with an axe and so he approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job.
“That depends,” said the foreman “let’s see you fell this tree.”
Now you may not realize that there is a great deal of skill involved in felling a tree with a hand axe. You cannot just start chopping away. But the young man was skilled, and in a few moments the great tree came crashing down.
The foreman was impressed, “you can start om Monday,” he said.
The young man shows up on Monday and begins work. Tuesday and Wednesday roll by and on Thursday the foreman comes up to the young man.
“You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today.”
The young man was confused, “I thought you paid on Friday.”
“Normally we do,” answered the foreman. “But we are letting you go. Our felling charts show that just over the last four days you’ve gone from our best logger to our worst.”
“But I don’t understand,” said the young man. “I ‘m the first to arrive and the last to leave. I work hard. I even work through my breaks.”
The foreman thought for a minute. He could sense the young man’s integrity and integrity was hard to find. He hated the prospect of letting him go. Then he asked.
“Have you been sharpening your axe?”
“Why no sir,” replied the young man. “I’ve been working too hard to take time for that.”
It’s all about preparation.
The parable of the man without the wedding garment challenges our way of thinking. After the invited guests refuse to come, they are destroyed and the king sends his servants to bring whomever they may find. One guest is severely punished for disobeying the king’s wishes.
We may be tempted to make excuses for the man who was not dressed properly. He was called at the last minute. Perhaps he did not have time to prepare. Perhaps he could not afford fine clothes. Perhaps he felt it was better to attend ill prepared, than not attend at all. And wasn’t it? Was it not more important that he was there?
In truth no, when the king asks for an explanation the man has no answer. He is “reduced to silence.” He offers no defense for not being prepared. It is easy to imagine a shrug and a raised eyebrow in response to the king’s question.
The message is clear. The man had every opportunity to prepare himself for the feast but did not. It was clear the king expected all the guests to be suitably attired, suitably prepared. And the one, who was not, was cast out into the darkness.
When we try to follow Christ without accepting his will and the teaching of his Church, we are trying to get in to the wedding banquet while refusing to put on the wedding garment. It is not enough for us to just “show up.” We must be prepared to celebrate.