Is this Gospel Dangerous?

Is this Gospel reading dangerous? This Gospel really seems to challenge our common conception of God as a God of love, a God who desires us to join him in heaven, and a God who desires to give us blessings? This is an important question for us to ask, because there is a king, a son, and a banquet.  And so often it is the case that people interpret the King to be God, the son to be Jesus, and the banquet to be the eternal feast God has prepared for ‘his chosen’ ones. 

So, if the king represents God, that means that God would do the following:

  1. He would burn the city and kill those who refused the invitation to join the feast
  2. He bound the hands and feet of the man who came dressed inappropriately for the party and threw him out

It seems that it this reading of the Gospel is in fact dangerous that this is not the God we Christians believe in.  Our God is an inclusive – he is the God of all, all loving and all forgiving God.  This king seems to be exclusive, not loving, and very unforgiving.  Uh-oh…

Whenever we have questions like this we need to first ask, what was Jesus’ intention in the parable? Scripture scholars almost universally agree that the King is the representative of God in the parable. So we cannot look the other way from the analogy and let Jesus, and God-the Father off the hook.  But we do need to ask the question, what is Jesus really saying to us and what literary device is he using? Jesus wants us to see two things: 1) that God’s kingdom is meant for all of us, and 2) that his Kingdom needs to matter and we are responsible for being prepared for the feast. Jesus is using hyperbole to make his point.  That when we reject God’s invitations, though big or small, and are indifferent to his many graces and blessings, it is disappointing for a God who loves us so much! This is hyperbole from Jesus, And that’s ok!

1) Jesus wants us to see how generous God is by inviting us to the eternal banquet.  If we look closer at this Gospel the generosity is clearly there.  The king invites the normal guests, he invites the normal guests again and this time says it will be the best food with the best wine! And finally, he invites whomever he can find for the feast.  This feast is meant for all of us and its going to be the best meal ever.  God’s generosity is evident. The first reading makes this clear as well, the feast will have rich food and choice wine, and it’s a feast that he will provide for all people (Is 25: 6).

2) Jesus wants us to recognize the gift and respond with gratitude.  God is serious about the invitation, and that means God is serious that we have a duty to respond.  A lack of a response and lack of preparation are no excuse.  We are called to be made ready.

The man thrown out of the party, said yes to the invite, but didn’t do anything to prepare. And when confronted about this, he is reduced to silence. I participate in a weekly bible study on zoom with some friends; one of which is a judge. Now I’m sure I can’t explain it with the proper precision, but in a nutshell, he spoke about how when someone is asked a question in the courts and remains silent; silence in that moment is perceived as “admission of guilt.” This man’s silence is an admission of guilt, he recognized that he should have been ready for the party and he wasn’t. 

Here’s the point.  It’s not enough for us to accept the invite.  God wants us to respond as well. The response is represented by the white garment.  The white garment signifies “True metanoia, repentance, change of heart and mind, that is the condition for entrance into the kingdom.”

God desires all of us to join him in heaven. And that means everyday we seek greater metanoia in order to change our hearts and minds to love God as the one needful thing.

In Christ’s love and friendship,

Fr. Stephen

Image credit: https://assetsnffrgf-a.akamaihd.net/assets/m/1102014707/univ/art/1102014707_univ_lsr_xl.jpg

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