Going to the Wedding Feast
by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
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."
One of the fastest ways to cut to the heart of Christ's parables and understand what he intends, even through layers of symbolism, is to find the part of the parable that raises questions. This principle works well in the case of the parable of the wedding feast. Several strange details key us in to the fact that this is no ordinary wedding, and no ordinary set of invitations.
Immediately upon reading the text, questions arise. Who is the king, who is his son and to whom is this son getting married? Why would anyone refuse an invitation to a royal wedding for the sake of work? Why would these people go so far as to kill the king's messengers? Why would someone come to this feast, after all this turmoil without being prepared? We can sum all these questions up by asking why does this wedding matter so much, and why do so many people treat it with such disdain?
Of course, the king is God the Father, and his son is Jesus Christ. We know from the rest of the Scriptures that the bride of Christ, his beloved, is the church, spread across the globe and across history, make up of all the baptized who remain in friendship with him. Thus, the invitation is to celebrate the union of Christ and his church forever in the feast of heaven. The messengers of the king are those who go out proclaiming the life of heaven and calling people to join.
Yet, as we see, many do not care to listen to this message of joy. Christ's call of love is to these people, absorbed in the work of their daily lives, an inconvenience, To respond to him would be to set aside their own plans, goals and ambitions, to admit that something is more important than their own chosen business. Indeed, more than an inconvenience, the invitation of the king apparently presents itself as a threat to the way of life the invited hold dear. Thus, they no only reject the invitation, but go so far as to persecute and kill the messengers so they will not have to even hear their vision of the world challenged any longer. When given a choice between God's call of love and their own autonomy, these people chose the latter, and in this way, made war on God himself, to their own harm.
So, the invitations go to others, who fill the hall. Yet even here, some are found without wedding garments. Since everyone in the ancient world would have had a wedding garment, or could easily have obtained one, to be without represents a lack of care and concern. The unprepared person perhaps came to eat and drink, but certainly does not care about the actual purpose of the celebration, the wedding of the king's son, and so insults his host.
Christ calls us to examine our response to his invitation of love. When he calls us, do we accept, or do we hold on to our own plans, ambitions and vision? Do we welcome his invitation, or do we try to silence his messengers with the noise of the world, or worse? Do we take the wedding feast lightly, or do we prepare ourselves to be ready to enter? Do we seek heaven and the feast of our God simply because it is better than the alternative, or do we truly open our hearts to love Christ and his people for their own sake?
Ultimately when he asks, will we accept his love or choose our own autonomy? For the price of humility and preparation, we can receive love, joy and unending merriment in place of pride's desolation. But he will leave the choice to us.