“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 by 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 the prophet Ezekiel, God speaks to his people through his prophet stating that “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts” (Ez 36:25). 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 firstborn 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 turn away from our selfish ways, to receive a new heart and a renewed spirit. God invites us too 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 dressed for the part and take up space. Our ultimate attire is the transformation from within in which our posture changes from a curving in upon ourselves to an opening and willingness 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 move beyond our comfort zones so to embrace the change we are invited to. We need to be willing to allow God to renew our hearts and minds, which is not easy, but we can also take comfort that we are not alone. Jesus invites us, as well as guides us, and empowers us all the while as he accompanies us.
Photo: Serving Thanksgiving dinner at Seton Manor, my novitiate year (about 1992) with the Franciscans. Seton Manor was one of the ministries in which I was blessed to serve people living with HIV.