The Gospel according to Matthew (22:1-14)
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, let us receive this invitation to ponder your words of truth and spirit. May our hearts and minds be opened so that the path to our hearts be made available to your loving message that includes all.
Encountering Christ: If we are honest most of us will admit that we have one of two reactions when we receive the pretty envelopes inviting us to a wedding. One reaction is less than joyful. The prospect of shopping or selecting a gift, looking at our calendar to see if we do not have a conflict, and driving a long distance to be with some people we know but a lot we don’t, bleah! Or, we get excited thinking of the future husband and wife, a perfect gift for them, and all the fun we are going to have seeing old friends and meeting new ones, yippee!
In today’s Gospel Jesus describes what heaven can be compared to by using the story of King who prepares a sumptuous banquet for his son’s wedding feast. But just like the first group in the previous paragraph people make excuses because they don’t want to disrupt their lives with the time it would take to attend. Despite the fact the King has apparently sparred not expense at providing all the trimmings for what should be, a spectacular event. And not only do they refuse to go, but they take their displeasure to an ugly place and commit acts of great sin.
After handling this situation with equal severity, the story continues with the invitation of any and all others regardless of their moral standing. Although this seems more like the God, we know the story takes a peculiar twist when one of the guests is not wearing the proper attire, white. And, again, unfortunately he is met with the same swift and severe consequence.
There is a lot to process here but let’s go straight to the heart of this story. “Many are invited but few are chosen.” We who read this passage are “the many”. Will we be one of the few? If pondered long enough this could cause even the most devout and faithful of God’s children a good deal of anxiety. This is never the intention of our good and gracious God. He does not desire for us to experience anxiety for no reason. If we feel anxious it should be because we know that we are not living up to the expectations anyone would have of a gift freely and generously offered for the good of another.
In baptism, we are clothed in our white garment. A garment the signifies the cleansing we receive so we may enter into the Body of Christ. Throughout our lifetime, with the help of others especially as we grow into adulthood, we are responsible for keeping our garment white. Not by our own doing but by cooperating with the grace of God. There are endless opportunities to receive the gifts of God’s grace. The Liturgy of the Mass where we receive both the living Word and the Living Body of Christ and the Sacrament of Reconciliation are the two best ways to keep our garment clean but couldn’t we, shouldn’t we avail ourselves of many other ways to receive and share these graces?
The invitation we receive from the King of Kings is open ended. The truth is that if we do not get into the banquet, it will have more to do with us than it will to do with Him. Let us not become so distracted from the invitation before us and live our lives with a consistent effort to stay the course. This way, when we are called to the banquet we may rely on the mercy, compassion, and love of God to welcome us to the feast.
Closing Prayer: Lord, we make no presumption that heaven is our final destination. We realize that the invitation we receive can be in jeopardy not because of You but because we can and do lose our way. May our efforts to follow you produce fruit that is evidence of a life lived in participation with your grace.
Action for the Day: In our prayer today let us reflect on the generosity of God and how we can respond to that gift so others may experience the joy it brings to our lives. By virtue of our invitation, we are called encourage everyone to respond to their invitation with the same commitment and joy. Have a GREAT time!