Come with a Response by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast."' Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.' The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment? But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.' Many are invited, but few are chosen."
This week Jesus tells a parable that, 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 top 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.
I really like 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 respo0nse. 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.
our help and guide, make your love the foundation of our lives. May our love
for you express itself in our eagerness to do good for others. Grant this
through Our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen” (Opening Prayer, 28th
Sunday in Ordinary Time).
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