Next weekend my older sister Erin is getting married. It is an exciting time for my family. In light of this, I find our Gospel this weekend humorous. Can you imagine if my parents acted the same way as the king? What if my Dad were to say to my brother and me, “Ok, all of those people who RSVP’d no, go burn their houses down!” Holy cow! That seems a little extreme… It seems strange that the King would burn the cities of those people who had rejected his invitation.
But, I think if we focus too much on the strange actions of the king, then we run the risk of missing the point. Instead, I think we are supposed to be more shocked by the strange reactions of the invited guests. Let’s think about this for a moment. The King has invited his people to join him for a wedding feast. And it’s not just any wedding feast, its the wedding feast for his son. And as our first reading illustrates, this feast will be a feast with great food and good wine!
I think to really grasp how strange it would be to say no to such an invitation it is helpful to put it into our own context. Imagine that we were all invited to a dinner reception with either the Pope or the President. Who would say no to that? And even if the company wasn’t that desirable, the promise of good food alone is enough to make one want to go. I mean, how many of us here would go to a party just because we knew that there would be good food? I certainly would…
Jesus’ point in the parable is to shock us. Flannery O’Connor once was asked why her short stories were shockingly violent. Her response: in a deaf society, one needs to shout! This is why our parable today from Christ is so shocking. It’s meant to move us. It’s meant to shake us up and to cause a change within each one of us.
Who in their right mind would say no to such an invitation? We are supposed to notice how ridiculous it would be to say no to the King’s invitation. Well, the same is true for each one of us. The Heavenly Father has invited us to the Wedding Feast. A feast given to us through a New Covenant, where God gives us His son as bread and wine. “We believe that our participation in the Holy Eucharist isn’t merely a foreshadowing but a real participation in that marriage banquet in which our God takes all nations to himself in the eternal covenant of love in Christ.” This is emphasized by our first reading, where God will bring all peoples together, to enjoy rich food and choice wine!
I think in a beautiful way we are called to reflect on the gift that we have received. The gift of being invited to the feast each and every Sunday. God desires so much to be in a relationship with us that he gave us His Son. So much so, that we receive a foretaste of the heavenly banquet each and every Sunday. This is why Eucharistic liturgy, each week, is essential in the Christian life.
But Christ warns us through the parable, that it is not enough just to accept the invitation in a willy-nilly way. We also need to prepare ourselves. The King seems rather harsh to the man that shows up to the wedding feast without a garment. But for us, in a Christian context, it means so much more. When we are baptized, we literally put on Christ and we are clothed in a white garment. In other words, when we come to the feast, we are called to both accept the invitation to the feast and to conform our lives to Christ. At our baptism, the priest says that parents are called to help their children bring the white garment they have received, unstained into heaven. In other words, we are called to grow in moral and spiritual excellence. As we conform our lives to Christ, we grow in our capacity to love; to love God our Father, and to love our neighbor as well.
In Christ’s Friendship,