28th Sunday In Ordinary Time
(Isaiah 25: 6 – 10a; Ps 23; Phil 4: 12 – 14, 19 – 20; Matthew 22: 1 – 14)
We are truly graced to hear Jesus’ words yet, at the same time, we are at a loss to hear HIs voice, how He spoke, His facial expressions, gestures, what He emphasized and the manner. His audiences were impressed deeply by the authority He showed, an authority that captivated never dominated. “No one has ever spoken as this man!” Hanging on His words they were drawn to Him.
Jesus’ parable is about a king – of course this king is the Father – we can imagine that Jesus spoke with delight, with joy about the one He lovingly called “Father”. This king manifests a most gracious largesse. He invites to the wedding banquet out of pure love, never out of necessity, always from supreme freedom and delight, both beyond our comprehension.
As we heard in the parable some ignore the invitation, some refuse, some go far as to abuse and even murder the messengers. With all this the king, who yearns to invite, will not be deterred; so he has his messengers go out “into the byroads” and invite anyone they meet. With that the wedding hall is filled.
Because of this open invitation the place is filled with the good and the bad. I believe it delighted Jesus to say this because “He ate with sinners, rubbed shoulders with tax collectors, with prostitutes.” Jesus can only do and say what He sees and hears the Father doing – what Jesus has portrayed in the parable proclaims the Father’s all embracing love, the Father’s desire for the eternal good of all, the good and the bad.
Then comes the matter of the wedding garment. It seems cruel and outlandish that the king after having invited anybody and everybody then has one of the guests bound hand foot and thrown outside because he lacked the proper clothing – a wedding garment. What are we to make of this? The parable, like all Jesus’ parables, is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Of course, there is more to this than a piece of clothing and a wedding banquet.
We are graciously invited into the Father’s kingdom and this involves a decision on our part, a decision on how we respond, how live this grace. Am I clothed in Christ, does my life reflect this in faith, hope, charity? The man, who does not respond to the king’s question, by his silence admits that he does not belong, he really has not chosen to be there, to be a guest. The wedding garment is not a thing, something external; it is nothing other than accepting and living Baptism to the full. In reality the garment is the Lord Jesus Himself. St. Paul speaks of Jesus in such terms: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh!” (Rom 13:14) And in another place: “All of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Him.” (Gal 3: 27)
Shortly, we will approach the altar and receive into our hands the wedding garment – not a piece of cloth – rather the Lord Jesus Himself. That in itself is a gift beyond all gifts. It is the extravagant gift of the Father not unlike the king who sent his messengers to collect any and all for the banquet – but infinitely greater than any earthly king.
Outwardly we chose to receive the Lord; we take Him into our hand, into our persons. The question, of course, is what is the depth of this inner choosing, what the response? The choice is ours. The invitation, the gift is extravagant. Should not our inner choosing be the same?