The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
When reading the parable of the wedding banquet in today’s Gospel did you find yourself thinking that the King was mean and vengeful for taking deadly retribution on those that refused his wedding invitation? And what about casting into the darkness the one guest that showed up without a wedding garment? Does this not seem just a little harsh?
As Bishop Barron asks, “are we to conclude that God is a psychotic tyrant who falls in and out of emotional stints and overreacts or is there something else going on here?” Bishop Barron believes there is something else going on here and uses a quote from the famous Catholic fiction writer, Flannery O’Connor, to make his point. She said, “That in the land of the deaf, sometimes you need to shout.” To get the attention of his audience Jesus needed to speak in loud dramatic terms. This was true in the time of Jesus and it is no less true in the hyper-secular times that we are going through today.
Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew was written about 50 years after Jesus walked the earth, and it gives us glimpses into the issues of the early Christian community. Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet would have helped explain to Matthew’s audience the reality that some people accepted Jesus and his message while others did not. God issued invitations to a heavenly banquet through the prophets in the Old Testament (the servants in the parable), but they ignored them. Then God sent Jesus, who again invited people to live in the Reign of God (not just in a distant afterlife, but here and now on earth). Jesus was “mistreated” and “killed” by some of the invited guests (the chief priests and Pharisees). The ones who accepted a belated invitation to the wedding feast represented those on the margins of Judaism (tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, etc.) as well as Gentiles. They became followers and received Jesus with joy and gratitude.
This parable can also be applied directly to us today. God invites us all to the “to the wedding supper of the Lamb." (Rev 19:9). With these words we are invited to the Holy Eucharist. No one is unwelcome. It is an open invitation. Every Mass that we celebrate is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Do we always accept that invitation? Or do we sometimes show indifference or ill feelings? The second set of invitees refused to come giving excuses; one went off to his farm, another to his business. This was a case of misplaced priorities. This may even happen to us. Sometimes we fall into the trap of making excuses (i.e., weekend visitors, kid’s hockey practice, tired from a busy week, etc.) to forgo God’s offer of grace. Even during this time of pandemic, it is still appropriate that we gather at least once a week (live or virtually) and feast at the table of the Lord Jesus. Nothing is more important than responding to God’s invitation.
At times, sadly, we could also be like the man who came to the banquet but was not properly prepared. We can attend Mass with a closed or pre-occupied mind and holding no thought of love or peace for our fellow parishioners. Without the proper dispositions, without the garment of charity which demands a pure heart, a good conscience and deep faith, we perpetuate our individual aloofness Instead of celebrating our Christian togetherness.
In summary, Matthew uses loud dramatic language to make the point that we are all extended an invitation to the heavenly wedding banquet. Jesus came into the world to save all humanity. Some people will accept Jesus and his message while others will not respond fully to the grace that is being offered. What about you? Will you accept your invitation to the supper of the lamb?
God bless you folks, Father Gerard