October 11, 2020
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Philippians 4:12-14; 19-20
Matthew 22: 1-14
The parable of the Wedding Feast is both a critique and an invitation. First, it is a critique of the religious leaders who keep pressing Jesus for proof that he is not a fraud. In the chapters preceding, Jesus is asked why his disciples do not keep the washing traditions of the elders. The religious leaders demand a sign from heaven to prove that Jesus is legitimately from God; this after they observed him feeding the multitudes. Bent toward preserving their religious traditions, they could not recognize the Kingdom of God unfolding in their midst.
But the parable is also an invitation. It is an invitation to take into consideration that one day our lives will end. Jesus presents a royal banquet feast filled with the finest food and drink. Here, we will rejoice as at a wedding feast, where all hostility is put aside and where love prevails. Isaiah gives us a glimpse of such a feast. God will set the table and God will invite us to come to the feast. The question is will we come?
So let the curtain go up on the parable. A king sends out an invitation to his guests to come to the wedding of his son. The bride is not mentioned, but she is there nonetheless. This is not just any wedding. It is a political wedding. Those invited must be loyal to the king and to his heir. Not coming to this wedding predicates political rebellion. It’s not that their excuses are bad; they are off-putting. Tending the farm, taking care of business, all legitimate enough, but without regard for the importance of the invitation. The rejection dishonors the king and his son. It is a fatal rejection.
Now, let’s go backstage on this drama and catch some of its significance. The feast is the eschatological feast of the end times. God is the king. Jesus is the bridegroom and yes, we are the bride. The ones who were invited, the people of the covenant of God, are those who have heard Jesus teach, watched him heal, and eaten at his table. However, they did not receive Christ
But the king will not be put off. Instead he fills the wedding hall with all the people whom his messengers brought in from the streets. We all become part of Isaiah’s inclusive vision of the holy mountain, where there will be no more tears and no more death. There is rejoicing and frivolity. We get a sense of the wonderful feast, the fine wines, and the fattened animals.
But when the king sees someone without a wedding garment, he asks: “Where is your wedding garment?” The person is silent. This line becomes problematic. Since the king invited everyone from the streets to come to the wedding, then why does he demand a wedding garment?
Some explanations emerge: if the bride of Christ is us, more universally, the bride is the Church. In Revelation 19:7-8 it reads: “The Lord has established his reign, our God the almighty. … For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment. (The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.)” Marriage is often a biblical metaphor used to describe the covenant relationship between God and his people. Therefore, even the guests from the streets need to come prepared. Therefore, the garments are our righteous deeds.
John Shea looks at the wedding garment differently. He says that as the bride, we are not invited to witness the wedding but to marry the son. We are not there to observe, but to participate. The requirement of the wedding garment is an eagerness to be united to the son. And therefore the wedding garment symbolizes a readiness to understand and act on Jesus’ teachings. (Shea, 298)
Shea continues: “Instead of being within the wedding feast of light, they (those without a garment) are thrown out into darkness. Instead of eating with their hands and dancing with their feet, they are bound hand and foot. Instead of laughing and singing, they weep and gnash their teeth. Thus they live in bitter regret.” (Shea, 299)
We live in an interim time between the present and the vision of Isaiah. God gave to us through his son, the Eucharist offered in the sacred liturgy each day. An ancient prayer of the Catholic Church says: “O sacred banquet in which Christ is received as food, the memory of his Passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and a pledge of the life to come is given to us.” The Eucharist is the memorial of the Passover of the Lord Jesus and therefore in communion we are filled with every heavenly blessing and grace. (CCC, 1402) It’s a wedding feast.
We are invited. But we must come. We are called, but we must prepare. Donned in our wedding garment and eager to be united to the bridegroom, let us set aside our farms, our businesses, all our preoccupations and come to the feast.
*Shea, John. On Earth as it is in Heaven. Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota. 2004.