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Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, 'tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests."But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." Matthew 22: 1-14
On the surface this is a very dark gospel. Jesus sees Calvary coming. He knows that the powerful are plotting against him. But he does not flinch. Over and over again he pounds home his message: repent and embrace the kingdom of God or face the consequences. There’s nothing sweet or soothing here. Our loving Savior is saying: Put up or shut up. Turn away from the world. Come to my feast.
There’s a line attributed to Thomas More that the nobility of England would have snored through the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s gospel is a four-alarm wake up call. Gone is the sunny radiance of the Sermon on the Mount. No more is Jesus punctuating his teachings with crowd pleasing miracles.
Christ has come to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Which side are you on? Every new day presents us with the same question. We are invited to live God’s kingdom. We are asked to shed the rags of inertia and instinct and put on the wedding garment of grace. God’s love is here for the taking…but not to be taken for granted.
In this and in every gospel, Jesus speaks to his immediate audience, but he also speaks to the ages. For those who heard and rejected his words, the destruction of the temple and the wrath of God awaited just over the horizon. For those of us who read and accept his words, a life in Christ is followed by an eternity of joy.
From beyond the beginning of time, God has known and loved us. The Father created us one by one to be happy with him. He preserved his chosen people to hand on his commandments. He sent his Son to die for our salvation. He established his church to teach us and to nurture our faith. All of this was done to prepare the feast. And every day of our lives we are invited anew to come live and rejoice in the Lord…to praise God and to love our neighbor. Every day the choice is ours… eternal feast or famine.
But are we so busy getting and holding, wanting and consuming that we reject the wedding invitation? Are we so self-absorbed that we ignore his constant call? We live in a blink of eternity. The days of our own physical temples are numbered. The days of the wedding feast are endless. This morning let’s accept the King’s invitation. Let’s RSVP: Thank you, Jesus. We’re coming, Lord.
Faithfully yours in Christ’s love,
JESUS MAFA. The poor invited to the feast, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48397 [retrieved October 3, 2011].