Today’s Thoughts: In the Gospel today, Jesus again directs “an in your face” parable to the religious leaders. Last week we had another parable of indictment against the same leadership as well. The image in our parable today is that of a king who has prepared a wedding banquet for his son. The servants, (who are the prophets within the history of God’s relationship with Israel) are sent by the king to bring in the invited guests. However, the servants are met with disinterest invited guests who refuse to come and continue their everyday lives. A second time the servants are sent and this time they are mistreat and kill. Prophets in Israel did not have an easy time of it.
The king, in anger, destroys those who had refused the invitations and instead, sent his servants out into the kingdom, into the common areas, streets and alleys to invite the “bad and the good alike.” There are plenty of them around, because the hall was full.
There is a strange end to this parable at least for me. The king finds one person attending the banquet who is not dressed properly. The king has this person bound and thrown out “into the darkness outside where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” As I always say if someone in Jesus’ parable is outside at the end you do not want to be that person. A question is why such selective brutality?
The “wedding garment” is the issue. I often think of Sunday Mass when I read this parable. Today, unlike when I grew up, there seems to be no unwritten desk code. Wear whatever you want, shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops anything goes. Come late leave early, no problem. We cannot say anything because we just have to be glad they are there. When I was a kid, living in a steel town people came dressed up to Sunday Mass. I often think of this when I hear all the hullabaloo about the National Anthem but that is another conversation.
What is the “wedding garment” in Matthew’s Gospel. Well, some experts in scripture write that it is the image of Baptism, proper incorporation into the “hall” or community. Others write that the “wedding garment” is how the invitation has changed the called-person. Perhaps all the other invitees were honor to be invited, they saw the honor and importance of being there and this lone invitee just sat there eating and drinking, not seeing the significance and importance of the event. Maybe he was not acting as invited, but he was acting entitled. Perhaps he had forgotten that there was more than food and drink provided. Maybe he was wearing a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops!
The religious leaders knew that Jesus was telling them that they had been invited and refused to come. That Jesus was an invitation to change, because of the relationship to which they had always been invited and they didn’t want in. Jesus was telling them that they were getting tossed out, not because they were not baptized, but that they refused to let Jesus into their life, because He was different from what they expected or demanded.
When Jesus this parable comes around I always think about the movie The American President. In the climax of the movie President Shepherd gives an impassioned speech to the press during which he says, “America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad.” I believe that Jesus in his parables and at other times is saying, “Discipleship, citizenship in the Kingdom isn’t easy. The Kingdom of God is advanced discipleship, advanced citizenship and you have got to want it bad! There is not half way in faith!
Have a great Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give a little time to God!
Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. "Preacher on the Run"
Just a few thoughts to help you on your journey through life...let me know from time to time what you think...