“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son” (Mt 22:2).
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus not only talked about feasts but he is recorded as often celebrating table fellowship with others. Those he ate with ranged from people who were considered sinners to the religious elite among the Pharisees.
In the parable from today’s Gospel, Jesus presented a wide range of reactions to the invitation offered from the king through his servants. Some are so caught up in their own lives, that they are not able or willing to break away and others reject the invitation outright and do so violently, by mistreating and even killing the servants of the king. Then others, the good and bad alike, welcome and say yes to the invitation.
God invites, but we must be willing to change our hearts and minds to see the invitation for what it is, an eternal gift. Those who refused, were unwilling to change their plans, as well as others who, with hearts of stone, were outright hostile, willing to abuse and even kill the servants.
Near the end of the parable, Jesus presents a curious fellow that the king found present at the banquet without the proper attire. This is not a literal indictment of not having the proper clothes, but the wedding garment imagery may be a recognition of a willingness to receive the benefits of the invitation without a yes to the responsibility involved with the invitation of transformation.
In our first reading from Judges, we see the responsibility of the weight of an oath and the sacred bond that is involved in making such an oath in ancient society. Jephthah vows to God that if he wins the battle against Ammonites, he will sacrifice the first person to come to him through his doors. Jephthah wins the battle, but who comes out of his house when he returns but his only daughter. Both Jephthah and his daughter though are willing to fulfill the oath to God.
Jesus made a sacred oath with his Father and he was willing to fulfill that oath with his very life. We are invited to participate in the banquet of eternal life with God. The invitation is freely given, yet it requires that we dress for the occasion of participating in the banquet of a king. This dress is no material garment of fine linen and gold embroidery, but our willingness to repent, to turn away from those idols, that which we have placed or put before God, to have our heart and spirit renewed. We are invited to be a part of God’s new creation by participating in the life of his Son, the first born of the new creation.
God the Father offered an invitation to an eternal banquet to the judges, the prophets, the people of Israel, to be one with him that they might shine brightly before all so to make his will and glory known to the world. In God’s timing, he sent his Son to fulfill that mission of invitation and to be with us in our present moment and in our present condition in life. Jesus meets us where we are right now in our everyday experiences and tells us that “the feast is ready.”
This is an invitation to begin again, to give up our old ways, to receive a new heart and a renewed spirit. But we need to be willing to let go, to change our hearts and minds, to be transformed and perfected through our participation in the life of Jesus and through the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit.
Our yes demands accountability, we can’t just show up and take up space. As we are transformed, we must at the same time be willing to devote our time, discipline, talent and treasure to serving at the banquet and inviting others to attend. “Many are invited, but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14). The first step is saying yes to the invitation. The second step is being willing to let go and go beyond our comfort zones so to embrace the change we are invited to. We need to be willing to be transformed, which is not easy, but we can also take comfort that we are not alone. Jesus invites us, as well as guides us, empowers us all the while as he accompanies us.
The banquet is ready. The table is set. Are we willing to attend? Are we willing to wear the proper attire?
Photo: Serving Thanksgiving dinner at Seton Manor, my novitiate year (about 1992) with the Franciscans. Seton Manor was one of my ministries assisting people living with HIV.