The king threw a great big party, and nobody came. I know exactly how he felt, because I host a party right here, every Sunday, and every year fewer and fewer people come. In the year 2000, the first year for which I filed a return, the average attendance, between the two Sunday Masses, was 153. Last year it was 95, and this year it will be lower still. So what shall we do about it? What did the king do, in the parable? He sent out his servants to the crossroads with instructions to invite everybody they could find to the party.
That’s what we need to do now. Everybody needs to speak to their friends, to their neighbours, to their workmates, to the people at their club, to their family members, and tell them what a wonderful party they are missing here at St Joseph’s. The trouble is, we tend to be a little shy about doing so. People are happy enough to come to Mass, but they’d rather die than speak to someone else about their faith, about the comfort they receive from it in this life, about the hope they receive from it for eternal life.
How very different the attendance at this church would be, if all of us were committed evangelists, if we were really proud of our faith and ready to proclaim it from the housetops. If we were ready to tell anyone who would listen that we believe in a God who made us, and who loves us so much that he sent his Son into the world to save us; that this Son taught, as no one else has ever taught, about the love of God; and how he showed his love for us by dying on a cross, and how he showed his power over death by rising again on the third day; and how he sent his Holy Spirit upon us to fill us with joy and peace and love; and how we are so full of that love that we pray every day, and certainly every Sunday, for the whole world; for those afflicted by illness or disaster, for those who have the responsibility for running our country and the world, and for those who have died, that they may come to enjoy the eternal happiness which we hope to experience ourselves.
Now you may say that you don’t feel able to talk about such things. So I would ask, what things do we feel able to talk about? Everybody feels able to talk about the weather. As I stand outside the church and greet people, everybody feels able to express the opinion that it’s cold, or that it’s raining, or that is has brightened up. But what a banal conversation that is. Could we not raise our game? Could we not talk about the God of glory, who made us and sustains us? Could we not talk about the love of God the Son, who suffered and died for us? Could we not talk about the Spirit who fills our hearts with joy and gladness?
Saint Peter writes in his first letter, ‘You did not see Jesus, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described.’ Could we possibly talk like that today? And if we could, would it be true? As we sit here, are we filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described? If we were, there would soon be others who would want to come and sit with us, and our Mass attendance would be very much greater than it is now.