Of Waiters and Kings
User's Guide to Sunday, Oct. 12
Sunday, Oct. 12, is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A).
Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23:1-6; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14 or 22:1-10
Today’s readings tell us of a great banquet God has in store for us — and warn us that if we take it for granted, we won’t be able to partake.
In the Gospel, a “customer” in heaven learns the hard way not to treat his host like the waiter.
In the long version of the Gospel, Jesus tells the story of a commoner who is not dressed properly for a royal wedding feast.
“When the king came in to meet the guests,” says Jesus, “he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside.’”
If that sounds harsh, we need to understand the nature of this wedding feast.
First, the feast was in no way deserved by the attendees. The king had invited his royal guests, and they had refused to come. Then he broadened the invitation and got little interest. Finally, he invited all to the feast. These are symbols of the Jews and Gentiles, or of the religious and the irreligious, but the result is the same: The guests should in no way have felt entitled to the feast.
Second, the wedding feast was extravagant. This is like the heavenly banquet, which is described in the first reading as “a feast of rich food and choice wines.” Don’t imagine a cafeteria line; imagine a White House state dinner.
The proper attitude toward such a feast is humble gratitude and a willingness to do whatever is appropriate for such an event. The king gives the errant guest a chance. When asked why he wasn’t dressed in a wedding garment, the man might have replied, “I am so sorry; I didn’t know. Please allow me to change my attire.” But the man said nothing.
If we have the same attitude toward the Father in heaven, we are doing God a great disservice.
In the Ignatius Study Bible, Scott Hahn and Curtis Martin explain that the feast represents the sacraments, and the “wedding garment” is prayer, alms and fasting.
The Eucharist is a rich and abundant gift, to which the proper response is: “I am not worthy.” If we expect to receive the Eucharist without having confessed our serious sins, the King will reject us as certainly as he rejected the guest with no wedding garment. And that is one table where we want to feel right at home.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.
- Oct. 5-18, 2014