“I have learned one thing,” Woody Allen once said. “Showing up is 80 percent of life. Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both.”
Edison said “ninety per cent of a man’s success in business (isn’t inspiration, it’s) perspiration.”
A 1967 column called “Dr. Crane’s Worry Clinic” suggested “psychology” was fundamental: Psychology accounts for at least 50 per cent of success in almost every field of endeavor, including preaching and teaching as well as salesmanship.
But whether it’s 50% or 80% or 90%, that’s just showing up. Showing up is important; its fundamental towards success, but it doesn’t guarantee success. Showing up is the easy part. It’s the rest of the percentage that’s hardest. And THAT is the percentage that counts.
You’ve probably heard of the “80-20 Rule.” The 80 / 20 rule underscores that in success:
- 80% of the work will need to be done to complete the last 20% of the job.
- 80% of the cost of an endeavor is needed to complete that last 20% of the project.
In today’s parable, Jesus is talking about the 80-20 rule. He is saying that merely showing up is not enough. Blogger Ed Pugh from “Sermon Index” explains that,
… in the ancient Jewish wedding, the Groom always provided the garments for guests to wear. Servants would be at the door to hand them out. But, in the parable found in today’s readings, these servants would not have had the authority to prevent the man (who was eventually tossed out) from entering without a wedding garment, would it have been their place to judge him or his suitability to enter.
Fr. Richard Rego, (former priest of the Diocese of Tucson, AZ) once wrote: “Some Church Fathers would identify this man as one who responds to the invitation to Baptism and becomes a member of the Church. Yet, he did not have the disposition that one must have to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“He wanted the alright; wanted the blessings and goodies that, he was told, would be his upon accepting the invitation. But he wanted them on his own terms. In other words, he refused to put on the garment believing that the invitation, simply showing up, his association with the others, would be sufficient — a presumption, he soon found out that was quite misplaced.” (Ed Pugh)
It’s not just showing up; it’s also being there. “Being there” is someone putting on the garment. This is actually quite an ancient idea. Let’s look at two examples from antiquity.
St. Augustine has some ideas about the wedding garment. He asks,
Is the wedding garment the reception of the Eucharist? No, you can receive Communion unworthily.
The wedding garment must be charity or love as Augustine puts it. The man came without love. So he is cast into the darkness again.
St. Gregory the Dialogist (also known as “St. Gregory the Great,” Pope) says, referring again to the wedding garment … (If you have ever seen someone operate a loom) “the cloth is woven between two beams, an upper and a lower. In like fashion is our spiritual garment woven, with an upper beam, which is love of God, and a lower beam, which is love of our neighbor.”
Lets look at a contemporary example. When I was teaching high school, I was always struck by the voracity of the importance that high school students put on “friends”. (That’s probably why they have hundreds of them on Facebook!). When I used to inquire who their friends were and how they could tell who their “real” friends were, inevitably they had a litmus test. Again and again, I would hear the phrase “They ‘were there’ for me.”
Not just showing up – but being there. Being there for others. But it also means “being there for God.” The Christian life requires ongoing conversion. This is the very difficult 20%. It doesn’t mean part time or when you can fit it in. This cannot be accomplished by simply “showing up” at church on weekends. It involves “being there” with God and for God. Jennifer Cauchi from “Catholic Chapterhouse” says that this, “involves ongoing conversation which includes prayer, Eucharist, service and frequent participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We cannot afford to be complacent. Jesus has given us ample warning.”
The sober message of the parable has, not only a contemporary – but a local voice as well. Soon after he arrived, Archbishop Chaput wrote that,
Complacency is the enemy of faith. To whatever degree complacency and pride once had a home in our local Church, events in the coming year will burn them out. The process will be painful. But going through it is the only way to renew the witness of the Church; to clear away the debris of human failure from the beauty of God’s word and to restore the joy and zeal of our Catholic discipleship.”
These words may sound sobering, but they are spoken with love as a father and a brother. They are a plea to:
- To take our Baptism seriously,
- To renew our local Church,
- To exercise charity, justice and zeal.
- And to not be afraid.
God uses poor clay to create grandeur and beauty. He can certainly use us to renew and advance the work of the Church — and He will.”
How does one do this? At St. Monica, our vision has challenged us to not only “show up,” but to also “be there” by doing the following:
- Daily – Pray for 10 minutes (5 minutes for children 3rd grade and younger)
- Daily – Read 3 pages of some type of Catholic book.
- Weekly – Say something about your faith, the Pope, your parish, the church, Jesus, etc.. to at least one person.
- Yearly – Give. Increase your offering by just 1% over last year.
- Yearly – Serve. Participate in just one pastoral outreach/service activity during the year.
“Haggai (the prophet), therefore, declares that peace will be given to all who build. But how does one build the church? One builds the Church either:
- as a teacher of the sacred mysteries (our catechism teachers for example),
- as one set over the house of God (anyone who has accepted a role in parish leadership or participating in ministry),
- or as one who works for his own good by setting himself forth as a living and spiritual stone in the holy temple (the 5 challenges above for example).
(Every person is) God’s dwelling place in the Spirit. The results of these efforts will profit such men so that each will be able to gain his own salvation without difficulty.”
Audio version of the homily is here: