Sunday, Oct. 15, is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). Mass Readings: Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23:1-6; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14 or 22:1-10.
Today’s Gospel says God is inviting us to a wedding feast. Will we go?
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son,” says Jesus. But a strange thing happens when he invites people to the feast. The first invited guests simply refuse.
The king doesn’t get angry, but tries again. “Tell those invited: ‘Behold, I have prepared my banquet; my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready. Come to the feast.’”
Now, in addition to those who ignore him, some of the invited guests do worse: They kidnap his servants, and then mistreat and kill them. The king, enraged, sends his troops for the malefactors and then invites anybody willing to come to join the feast.
On one level, this parable is an allegory: It tells the story of the chosen people of God, the Jews, who nonetheless rejected the messages of the prophets that pointed to Christ. But it also applies to each of us.
We are invited to a wedding feast — the glorious union of Jesus Christ and his Church in heaven. But this wedding feast is not just a spiritual thing. The first reading describes what it might be like.
It is “a feast of rich food and choice wines,” it says, where “the Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face.”
Like the characters in the story, many may truly believe that this is what the Church is offering, but still not go. “Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,” says the parable. Many, too, probably feel like they would give their hearts to the Lord if only they could tear them away from personal affairs. But many can’t.
Others get violent like those other servants, rooting out the invitation from their hearts, twisting it so that their consciences won’t be bothered by it anymore.
Why? Because they know that, in order to feast with the King — in order to celebrate with Jesus Christ and the saints — they need to change their lives. And they won’t.
The Fathers of the Church saw this story as a sign not just of the heavenly Church, but the Church on earth. After all, the king’s servants “gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.”
The bad had to work hard to be good company for the king. The parable expresses this by the exchange between the king and the guest with no wedding garment. Gregory the Great said the wedding garment is love. This man “may have faith, but he does not have deeds of love.”
When the king asks this guest why he has no wedding garment, the guest says nothing. He doesn’t confess; he doesn’t defend himself. He doesn’t answer at all.
Like St. Paul in today’s second reading, he could speak up, confess, ask for help and learn not just “how to live in humble circumstances,” but also “how to live with abundance.”
But the man does nothing, not even answering the king, and is lost.
He is there at the feast and won’t enter in.
We are at the feast, too, at every Mass. It is an opportunity to ask Jesus in the Eucharist to make us good guests who will stay.
We can ask for the grace to say, with Paul, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”
Tom Hoopes is writer
in residence at
Benedictine College and
author of The Fatima
Family Handbook (Holy Heroes).