Today’s Gospel describes a parable about a King giving a wedding banquet for his son. The King represents God.
At first glance, the reaction of the King throughout this parable is unjust and harsh. The actions of the King are even more disturbing when we consider that the King represents God. This King shows no love, forgiveness or compassion. This King shows no mercy – he flies into a rage, he murders murderers, he burns cities. In the case of the guest without the wedding garment, why is the King so upset about his clothes? Why didn’t the King just ask this guest to leave? Rather, the King commands that the man be tied up and physically thrown out to experience endless pain and suffering. This response seems so unfair when we consider the nature of the offence.
None of this is to be taken literally. The intent of the King’s extreme responses is to jolt us, to shock us out of our complacency. God is not a doting grandparent where everything and anything is acceptable. The decisions we make matter. They do influence the type of relationship we have with God. Our choices do affect the quality of our discipleship. The point of the parable is not to frighten us about God’s responses to us, but rather to motivate us to rethink our responses to God.
The wedding banquet represents the Kingdom of God. The main message of the parable is about the Kingdom of God and about the nature of Christian discipleship.
Bishop Robert Barron offers this explanation: “God’s kingdom refers to God’s way of ordering things. Jesus’ teaching and his manner of life give us a very good idea of what this kingdom would look like: peace, nonviolence, forgiveness, healing, walking the path of compassion”.
With this definition in mind, let us consider 3 responses to the King from the parable.
The 1st response deals with the first invitation to the intended guests. The King sends his slaves to the guests simply saying: “Come to the banquet”. When the guests receive the call to attend the wedding, they blatantly refuse to come.
There are times when we have all responded to God in this way. By virtue of our Baptism, we are the intended guests at the wedding banquet. As a result of Baptism, we become Christians. On the day of our Baptism, the cross is traced on our foreheads. The symbolism of this gesture is that we are literally marked for Christ. As disciples of Jesus, the goal of our lives is to bring about the Kingdom of God right now, on this earth. We are like these invited guests when we refuse to live out our Baptism in any situation or when we reject outright the Gospel values of love and service in any situation.
The point of this 1st response is to challenge us to examine our life style choices. Each of us is to ask this question: Am I saying an abrupt and direct “No” to God through any of my attitudes, values, or habits?
The 2nd response I would like to focus on deals with the same intended guests. These same people receive a 2nd invitation. This time, the King emphasizes the high quality of the feast.
Some of those invited a 2nd time are simply not interested in the invitation. They are too involved with their daily routines and the practical demands of life to bother with the wedding.
There are times when we have all responded to God like this group of guests. We are like these invited guests when we ignore our Baptismal call because we are so preoccupied with worldly attachments. In these situations, we are so focused on wealth, power, social status or pleasure that we snub the invitation to be a disciple of the Lord.
The parable challenges us to place God and His Kingdom first in our lives. Everything else is secondary: our family, our children, making money, building a career, seeking material abundance, having fun with friends. We ought to vigilant so that these goals do not become the priorities of our living and cause us to be closed to God.
Choosing to live according to the values of the Kingdom may require us to give up on some aspects of our lives which are culture accepts as admired or necessary. Fr. Richard Rohr puts it this way: “To pray and actually mean ‘Thy Kingdom come’, we must also be able to say ‘my kingdoms go’.” Each of us is to ask this question: “What items of my personal agenda must be put aside or left behind in order to embrace the agenda items of the Kingdom?
The 3rd response deals with the man who was not wearing a wedding robe when he attended the banquet. In Jesus’ time, it was a sign of respect to come properly dressed to a wedding banquet. There was no excuse for attending a wedding in work clothes or untidy clothes. The expectation was to change out of old dirty clothes on put on a clean wedding robe.
The wedding garment is a reminder to take a closer look at our lives. To be a faithful follower of Jesus, to give clear witness to the values of the Kingdom of God means that we ought to be committed to certain standards and expectations.
The wedding garment recalls the baptismal garment. The baptismal garment symbolizes that we have “put on” Christ. The baptized person is now clothed in Christ. The call of Baptism is to take off the decisions, activities and behaviours that are at odds with the kind of life and relationships that the Gospel expects of us and put on the garments of love, forgiveness peace and compassion.
As Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote in one of his books, “The whole message of the Gospel is to become like Jesus”. Each of us is to ask these questions: To what extent is my mind like Christ’s? To what extent is my heart like Christ’s? To what extent are my actions like Christ’s?
As our Eucharist continues, let us ask God for 3 graces. First, let us ask God for the grace to become disciples who, boldly and directly, say “yes” to Jesus. Second, let us ask God for the grace to become disciples who put Jesus’ teachings and manner of life into practice. This is the mission that we must put above all else. Third, and most importantly, let us ask God for the grace to become disciples who bear abundant fruit for the Kingdom of God. In this way, when our time comes to appear before the King, we will bring the dignity of our baptismal garment unstained.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
October 10-11, 2020