The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
By, Fr Aldo, sx
I would like to begin my reflection with a quiz on today’s gospel:
- Who is the king?
- Who is the son whose wedding is celebrated?
- Who is the bride?
- What does feast represent and why is it organized?
- Who are the servants in charge of bringing the invitations? (Take note that there are three groups: what does each of the groups represent?)
- Who are the first invited and why do they refuse to participate?
- Who are those gathered from the main roads?
- What is the city which was destroyed?
- What is the meaning of the wedding garment?
- Will God punish those who refuse his feast? (A tip: read the first reading of today before answering this question.)
Now I will give my answers:
- The King in the story is God. He organizes the nuptial feast of his son.
- The Son is Jesus.
- The spouse of the son is the entire humanity or perhaps the Church. What would you think about such a bride? Is she beautiful, attractive, kind and intelligent? When we think of so many wars, injustices, violence and tears shed by innocent people, we certainly do not feel much enthusiasm for such woman. Nevertheless, Jesus loves her. He knows that his love has the power to transform her, making her beautiful and attractive. What a difference between God’s love and ours! We love people who are good, but he loves them when they are bad, and it is his love that transforms them into good.
- The feast represents the happiness of the messianic time. Those who accept the way of life of the Gospel begin to become part of the Kingdom of God and experience the purest and deepest joy. In the Bible the Kingdom of God is not compared to a chapel where all the people pray fervently with devotion; it is neither compared with an old convent of sisters, where there is no noise at all to disturb their meditation and their spiritual ecstasies. But it is written that the Kingdom of God is like a banquet where people eat, drink, dance, play, talk, laugh, tell stories and are happy together.
- The servants in charge of the invitations are divided into three groups. The first two are the prophets of the Old Testament until John the Baptist. These fulfilled their mission of preparing Israel to receive Jesus as Messiah. The third group represents the apostles and all of us.
- The people invited along the roads, good and bad, clean and dirty without distinction are the men and women of the whole world. Here we identify one of Matthew’s favorite themes: The Church, the People of God is composed by good and bad people, it is a field where we find wheat and weeds, it is a net that catches all kinds of fish. Thus this parable could be an invitation for us to open our hearts so that our communities be welcoming to all kinds of people, especially the marginalized and rejected ones.
- The first invited refuse to participate because of their own other interests like fields and business. They actually do not need any banquet. They have everything they need to be happy and to secure a future without problems. They are people who are already satisfied. They represent the spiritual leaders of Israel who feel pleased with the religious structure which they set and gave security to them. Those who are not poor, who do not want to give up their personal interests, who do not want to let go of their material and spiritual securities, who do not thirst for a new world will never enter the Kingdom of God. They are satisfied with their own small material and spiritual world. The poor and broken ones are usually in better condition to grasp the un-conditionality of God’s love in relation to them, accept the invitation and become part of the Kingdom.
- The city destroyed is clearly a reference which Matthew makes to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE which the early Christians interpreted as a punishment because its inhabitants refused to accept the Messiah.
- The case of the one without the proper wedding garment is a good invitation to those who accepted to be part of the Kingdom of God, the baptized. They should not take their religion for granted. If they don’t remain faithful to the logics of the Gospel, their religiosity can end up in a great failure, just the same as those who refuse the invitation at all. It is not enough to receive a sacrament, it is necessary to assume totally new attitudes. This new Christian life is compared to the new clothes received on the day of baptism. It is not enough to place a new patch on an old cloth. The entire cloth has to become new. The entire life has to be built based on new values. For example: one should not think about adding to the amount of alms given to the poor, but to change completely his or her attitudes in relation to the material goods of the world.
- Finally, is God going to punish anyone? Of course no. Matthew however puts threatening words in the mouth of Jesus because the wants the Christians to be aware that if they refuse to live according to the logic of the Gospel not wearing the new garments of the children of God they run a serious risk of having their lives totally destroyed. It is actually an invitation to awakening and to conversion.
Let us accept the invitation and enjoy every single moment of the feast. Let us not wait to come in only when the dessert will already be being served. That is actually good enough, but what a pity if we miss all that was served before it!