Monday, October 3, 2011

Gospel Text for Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Matthew 22:1-14 Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, `Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, `The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, `Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, `Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."


  1. How shall I look at this parable? Shall I look at the king, who seems a bit of a bully, trouncing his enemies and banishing the desperate soul who sneaked into the banquet by a side door? Shall I look at those who spurned the invitation to the banquet (whom I visualize as self-righteous religious bigots like whom I am decidedly not!)? Shall I make myself one of the “good” who are excited that they are finally recognized and included in the king's favor? Shall I pretend to the humble attitude and say I am one of the “bad” who sit wondering how it is that they were invited? The strong language of this parable, the vivid coloring that Jesus give it, entices me to look at these possibilities, but all of them leave me pushing for my place at the banquet, my right to be there versus others who spurned the privilege, looking with satisfaction or curiosity at myself, in my seat at the table.
    I went to the Gospel to find the setting of this story. It is in the middle of a series of parables Jesus tells and disputes between he and “the chief priests and Pharisees” (Matt.21:23 to 22:45). The element that repeats in almost all is, “the son.” However he is portrayed, it is “the son” who appears again and again. And in the unit with which Matthew concludes this section, Jesus asks, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” (22:42) That is the issue here, I believe. What do I think about the Messiah? Who is this “son”? And the point that penetrates my heart in the parable in today's Gospel is, I do not know. I might think I know, like the chief priests and Pharisees did. I might believe I have discovered him, like those included in the banquet (after all, we are the ones on the inside now). I might, like the one pushed out of the banquet hall, think I can tell people what he is like. But, listening to all the descriptions Jesus gives and the enigma he proposes in the final verse: “If then David calls him, 'Lord,' how can he be his son?” (22:45), I concede, I do not know him – not as he is, not in the mystery and majesty of the royal son. I must discover him. However I ended up in the banquet hall, I wait for the king to present him. I wait for the son to show himself. It is all about him.

  2. I notice that Jesus is still trying to teach the religious officials that the kingdom of God is not what they expect. They were the first to be invited to the Son’s wedding, but they were too preoccupied with worldly affairs to attend. So God extended the invitation to anyone – with no conditions on race, education, gender, sexual orientation, moral standing. Everyone was invited to the wedding of the Son. And not too surprising, the people came.

    The thing is, even though everyone was invited to the wedding, the invitation was not just to show up as guests or observers, to eat the cake and maybe dance a little and then go home unaffected. Everyone was invited to the wedding to be the bride, to marry the Son. That’s why the guest who failed to wear a wedding robe, the one who only came to eat the bread and drink the wine, was thrown out of the banquet. If we want to come to God’s banquet, if we want to be in relationship (married to) God’s Son, it takes more than showing up at the party. We have to be prepared to be the bride of the Christ.

    What does it mean to be married?... tobe married to the Christ? Well, marriage is a civil contract or agreement , and a covenant that asks for mutual faithfulness, and a sacrament that is a sign of God’s unconditional love and a friendship. Showing up at the banquet asks for all of that and means that we will be changed. When we marry the Christ we become one in the Body. The Body is the Church. The Church is the bride of the Christ.

    Accepting the invitation to God’s banquet table does not come without consequence. When we choose to accept the invitation it means claiming our faith, growing in intimate relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and letting our lives be transformed so that we too become the bearers of the good fruit of the banquet table.