Come to the Wedding Feast
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast."' Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.' The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He 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, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.' Many are invited, but few are chosen."
“The kingdom of God may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” So begins a parable that Jesus directs to the chief priests and the elders of the people. God, our Father, wants us to celebrate with Him the marriage of His Son, Jesus, with His bride, the church. It is a great moment in time, truly worth celebrating with great gusto. As at all weddings, the Father wants the celebration to be filled with joy, with plenty of singing and dancing. The king also provides the guests with a banquet; He wants to fill the guests with good things. This promise is fulfilled beyond comprehension at the Eucharistic table at which God feeds us with His very self.
Jesus states that the king sends out his servants three times to invite the guests to the feast. This biblical number is enormously important, pointing us to God’s extraordinary generosity. The first time the servants go out, they are ignored. The second time, the servants are mistreated and killed. How sad. We, God’s invited guests, can be so blind and selfish, blind to the goodness and beauty of God, blind in our own selfish little worlds. That blindness and selfishness can build up over time and lead to truly evil acts. Yet the king sends out his servants a third time. God never stops inviting us to conversion and newness of life. He deeply desires every person to come to His banquet.
At the end, Jesus’ parable takes an interesting turn. The king, after beating the bushes to invite everyone, notices one man without a wedding garment and casts him out of the banquet. After working so hard to get everyone there, why would the king be so concerned about his attire? One answer is that God desires some minimal response to show gratitude for His generous invitation. He desires that we make the effort to round up a wedding garment, even if it is old or borrowed. God seeks a human response from us, an expression of gratitude for the offer to share in His life and joy.
Reflecting upon this parable, how can we not pause and ask ourselves a question: Am I living my life as a grateful response to the goodness of God? Does gratitude course through my veins like life-giving blood? We cannot give back to God anything that resembles what He has given to us (life itself, His friendship, the world to cultivate, His mercy, the gift of eternal life), but we can be people who thank Him profoundly through lives of loving service inspired by gratitude.
This week, the church in the United States celebrates National Vocation Awareness Week. It is an opportunity for us as a nation to discuss, pray for and encourage vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. Dioceses, parishes and communities around the country will offer opportunities for education, prayer and discernment to encourage those called by God to respond according to His will. The fostering of vocations requires the involvement of every member of the church. We, as the people of God, must find ways to create an environment in our homes, schools and parishes where vocations are seen as a beautiful gift from God, nourished by prayer and sound faith formation, and encouraged by adults and friends who grasp the value of a life given completely to God for the sake of the kingdom.
Pope Francis, in his November 2013 apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium," focused on the task of building a culture of vocations. He wrote: “The fraternal life and fervor of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration.”
Our Lord’s parable for today speaks directly to the gift of a vocation. Those called by God, our Heavenly King, to dedicate their lives and their energies to building the kingdom must see this courageous response principally as a profound act of gratitude. God creates us in love, redeems us in love, gifts us in love and calls us in love to bring that same love, mercy and truth into a hurting world. Bring your wedding garment.
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