Is 25:6-10a; Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt 22:1-14
Son asked his mother the following question: ‘Mom, why are wedding dresses white?’ The mother looks at her son and replies: ‘Son, this shows your friends and relatives that your bride is pure.’ The son thanks his Mom and goes off to double-check this with his father. ‘Dad why are wedding dresses white?’ The father looks at his son in surprise and says: ‘Son, all household appliances come in white.’
Today’s Scripture readings offer us a standing invitation to the everlasting joy of the Heavenly banquet and a loving warning to be ever ready for it by constantly wearing the wedding garment – remaining in a state of grace. In the first reading, Isaiah describes the Messianic banquet on the Lord’s mountain in the Holy City of Jerusalem which Yahweh is preparing for His people. The good news is that it is a great feast of “rich food and choice wines.” But for the children of Israel the bad news is that Yahweh invites all people, including Gentiles, to the banquet. Today’s responsorial psalm is the famous 23rd psalm presenting God as the Good Shepherd Who nourishes leads and protects His flock.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” Jesus also refers to a wedding feast – a great supper. He is referring to the great and bounteous feast of heaven, of course, but also the earthly foretaste of that feast in the Eucharist.
Today’s parable on the surface, seems a bit strange. It definitely requires some unpacking. A king sends out invitations for his son’s wedding and the invitees say “no thanks.” The king sends out messengers to insist and they are ignored by some invitees and then insulted and killed by others. The king retaliates by destroying the ungrateful guests and burning their city. Then, to fill the room, the king sends the servants “out into the byroads” to invite all to come. When the king arrives, he finds a man not properly dressed for a wedding and tosses him out into the night. The parable ends with the statement: “The invited are many, the elect are few.”
The Scripture scholars are helpful with this parable. Most agree that Matthew combined two separate parables into one. The first focuses on who has been invited to share in God’s blessings of grace and salvation. The second focuses on the response of the guests.
The first portion of the parable is a clear declaration that everyone is invited to God’s banquet. The king is rich. The banquet is a feast of juicy, rich food. There is no good reason to miss the gathering. Jesus highlights the deep desire of His Father, the King, to fill the hall so that He may share His joy and His bounty with all who come. The expected guests are summoned twice. Then everyone off the streets is summoned. Everyone is invited. There are no exceptions.
Still, even today, too many of us refuse to come and receive the blessings of the Great King. Too many of us ignore God’s invitation to join in the celebration in honor of His Son, a beautiful reference to the Eucharist. Too many of us fail to realize that God is providing nourishment that well up into eternal life.
The second portion of Jesus’ parable invites us to ponder our response to the generous invitation of the king. While admission to the banquet is free, and God has invited everyone to join in the festivities, a human response is still necessary. We need to put on a wedding garment. It need not be fancy or expensive, but it should be clean and better than our gardening or workout clothes.
William Barclay’s comments on this aspect of the parable: “It is true that the door is open to all men, but when they come they must bring a life which seeks to fit the love which has been given to them. Grace is not only a gift; it is a grave responsibility. A man cannot go on living the life he lived before he met Jesus Christ. He must be clothed in a new purity and a new holiness and a new goodness. The door is open, but the door is not open for the sinner to come and remain a sinner, but for the sinner to come and become a saint.”
Today’s parable is rich and complicated, but two things seem clear and simple. First, everyone is welcome to the Father’s banquet in honor of His Son, everyone is invited to receive new life through the gift of God’s mercy and healing. Second, the gift is so great that it demands a generous response. We must come filled (even overwhelmed) with gratitude for the Father’s goodness and eager to show that gratitude by changing our lives and living in union with the will of the Father. Are you going to accept or reject God’s invitation?