Get Dressed for the Wedding Banquet 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."
“Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child.” My mother brought out that quote on occasion when I was a child. It does not require much explanation.
This week’s readings from sacred Scripture point to one of the great paradoxes of Christianity. God’s offer of grace and salvation is completely free and unearned, but requires a human response.
Jesus tells a parable in the Gospel passage from Matthew that zeros on a king’s astonishing wedding invitation for a banquet that he has prepared for his son to absolutely everyone in the vicinity. One striking dimension of this parable is that the invited guests refuse to come. Not only that, but when encouraged a second time by the king’s servants to join him, some of the guests ignore the servants and other guests kill them. How bizarre.
There is a profound disconnect here.
This banquet represents God’s offer of life, the fullness of life, to all who choose to embrace His Son with their hearts and follow His way. We can’t possibly provide a banquet like this. Nor can we find the peace, happiness, wisdom or courage that we long for without coming to this banquet. We can’t know what it means to be with God in the intimacy of friendship and communion without attending this banquet. Why do we refuse to attend? Is there anything sharper than a serpent’s tooth?
Don’t people have a bit of a duty to do a little research? If you heard even a hint of what God the Father has done for us (in sending His only begotten Son to this earth in order to repair the breach between us, revealing an amazing Father, loving us with an infinite goodness, and setting up a banquet in which He Himself becomes our very food), isn’t there a responsibility to check it out and see if the promise is true? How excusable is ignorance for those who have heard?
Then, there is the wedding guest who shows up for the banquet dressed for exercise or yard work. What is up with that? When offered an absolutely free invitation to the best party in the universe, how can he show up without finding something appropriate to wear? “My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?”
Of course, the issue is not really his outfit. It is a lack of appreciation for the extraordinary gift that has been so freely given. Again, it boils down to gratitude. When we are truly grateful, we respond in some fashion that lets the Giver know that we are humbled by the offer and see it as a precious offer of fellowship. We make known in a tangible way that we have been blessed well beyond anything that we have earned. We dwell in a state of a deep awareness that we can’t be present to the banquet if not for the overwhelming generosity of the King.
The great prophet Isaiah speaks in a remarkably prophetic way to us today. Even though he writes many years before the coming of Christ, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah speaks of Jesus, the Eucharistic banquet, and the gift of eternal life that He would make available to us:
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy rich good and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said: ‘Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!’” (Is 25:6-9)
Heavenly Father, open our minds to the wonders of your truth and grant us hearts filled with gratitude.
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