'Are You Prepared for the Feast?' by Rev. John De Celles
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."
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." Throughout the Old Testament one of the primary symbols of the relationship between God and Israel is the image of marriage: God is called the Bridegroom of His Bride Israel (see especially Song of Songs and Hosea). Isaiah applies this specifically to the Messiah: "For you Maker is you husband, the LORD . . . the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer."
With this as a background, pious Jews would have clearly recognized that by casting himself - the "son" of "the king" - as the Bridegroom of heavenly wedding feast Jesus was claiming to be both Messiah and God. The Pharisees seem to have recognized this, as the very next line after the parable (not included in our text) says: "Then the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech."
But Jesus also refers to a wedding feast - a great supper. This allusion should not be lost on Catholics. He is referring to the great and bounteous feast of heaven, of course, but also the earthly foretaste of that feast in the Eucharist.
Marriage is a union resulting from a total mutual self-gift of husband and wife. For Christ and His Church this self gift begins on the Cross as Christ gives Himself for and to His Bride ("Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (Eph 5:24). This communion is perfected for each of us only in heaven - the participation in all good things with the Divine Bridegroom, which Scripture calls the heavenly wedding feast. But we begin to share in that communion here on earth, most especially in the Eucharist, where we feast on the Bread of heaven, which is the Bridegroom Himself.
In today's text we read how at the wedding feast of heaven the Father sends his servants out saying: "'The feast is ready . . . Invite . . . whomever you find.' The servants . . . gathered all they found, bad and good alike." This passage reminds us how generous the Lord is to invite both the righteous and sinners to come to His kingdom. Unfortunately sometimes we can delude ourselves with this passage, thinking that since God invites everyone to heaven and to Mass, that everyone should actually enter heaven and receive holy Communion. But according to the parable, just because everyone is invited to the wedding, it doesn't mean that everyone gets to stay for supper. Jesus goes on to explain that when the king discovered a guest "not dressed in a wedding garment" he had him bound and "cast him into the darkness outside." And He concludes: "Many are invited, but few are chosen."
God invites all of us to His Son's wedding banquet - the perfection of the banquet in heaven, and the foretaste of this banquet in the Eucharist. But he also tells us to prepare ourselves for the banquet - and if we're not prepared, we will not eat at the feast.
How do you prepare yourself for heaven and for Mass? Is your garment clean - unstained by serious sin? Are you wearing the right kind of garment - do you "clothe yourself in Christ" (Gal 3:27) by keeping his commandments? The King bound and cast out the improperly dressed guest at his son's wedding feast - what will he do to us if we come to either our judgment at death or to Communion at Mass covered only with our sins?
Let us rededicate ourselves to prepare for the wedding feast of God's only Son, for "many are invited, but few are chosen."
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