October 9, 2005 - Pentecost +21

Matthew 22:1-14

 1 Jesus went on speaking to them in parables:

“This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A king celebrated the wedding of his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the wedding feast, but the guests refused to come.

Again he sent other servants ordering them to say to the invited guests: 'I have prepared a banquet, slaughtered my fattened calves and other animals, and now everything is ready; come then, to the wedding feast.' But they paid no attention and went away, some to their fields, and others to their work.While the rest seized the ser­vants of the king, insulted them and killed them.

The king became angry. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he said to his servants: 'The wedding banquet is prepared, but the invited guests were not worthy. Go, then, to the crossroads and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.'

10 The servants went out at once into the streets and gathered everyone they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests.

11 The king came in to see those who were at table, and he noticed a man not wearing the festal garment. 12 So he said to him: 'Friend, how did you get in without the wedding garment?' But the man remained silent. 13 So the king said to his servants: 'Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the dark where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

 14 Know that many are called, but few are chosen."

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Notes from [The Community Christian Bible

This parable contains two parts.

In the first part, God invites us to a banquet where there is a place for everyone. all through history he has been sending his prophets to preach justice, the mercy of God and trust in him. The Jewish nation, however, did not heed God's call through these prophets and now will pay even less heed to Jesus. God's plan will not fail. He will send his apostles to preach the Gospel in foreign nations (go to the exits of the ways) so that non-Jews, too, may enter the Church. Some Jews, however, the selected few among so many called, will be the first members of the Church.

The king celebrates the wedding of his son, Christ, who deserves to be called "the bride-groom" of humankind (Mk 2:19), because he has become one body with it. All throughout history the Risen Christ gathers together mortal and divided human beings. The Spirit of God will transform and raise them from the dead, so that they may sit at the table of the living, according to the parable.

The only table of Christ that Christians usually know is the Eucharist. While taking part in it, we must not forget what has been said above. Our meeting in the Mass should remind us that God calls us to prepare, in our daily lives, for the banquet reserved by him for all humankind. Ours is the task of uniting and reconciling all people.

What if we do not answer? Then, little by little, the life of the holy and universal Church will be withdrawn from our assemblies of comfortable Christians, and others will be called to take charge of the work of God: invite to the wedding.

The second part of the parable points this out: You, Christians, who are already inside the Church, do you wear the new garment -- a life of justice, honesty and trustworthiness?

Let us not believe that the surprised guest who was not properly dressed for the occasion was some kind of poor person. No, for it was customary during those times to supply all guests with the robe they should wear at the banquet. This one could have put on the robe but did not, so he had nothing to answer.

• 14. Many are called (v. 14). Some are disturbed upon reading this: does it mean that only a few persons will be saved?

If we associate this sentence with the first part of the parable, it means that, of those first invited, few will enter the banquet. These guests were the Jews and very few, indeed, entered the Church of Jesus. Interpreted in connection with the second part of the parable, it would mean that few of those entering the Church have the necessary dispositions, so the majority would be condemned at the time of judgment. This contradicts what was related in the parable, because only one of the guests was thrown out.

It is better not to associate this saying too much with the parable of the banquet, because we find it also in other places in the Gospel. Here Jesus advises us (as in 7:13) that only a few discover through the Gospel true freedom and new life. Then, are they saved? Yes and no -- because salvation, for Jesus, does not mean to escape from the punishment of hell, but to reach perfection.

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Comments by Wesley

1. How do you deal with invitations? Here it doesn't matter whether the invitation is to party or to serve. There is a basic orientation to an openness to being called or invited. We have either nurtured that or, as in this case, developed our skills at paying no attention to that which would distract us from whatever current story-line we are telling ourselves about where meaning lies. And, truth be told most of our story-lines are lies. Invitations from a better future always run afoul of our attachment to our current, flawed present.

2. I was struck how the "king" became "angry" with particular responses from particular people and was willing to open their invitation to "everyone", good and bad.

This is very much like Paul talking about being angry but not sinning. It seems that by the end of this section the "king" wasn't able to keep this generosity going and fell back into the mode of expanding the weeping and gnashing. It is at times like this we need to remind GOD about GOD's intention for steadfast love.

3. I was also struck by the Liberation Theology comment about the second part of this parable. We, good and bad, have been invited and actually showed up. We were given the clothing, a life, of "justice, honesty, and trustworthiness." We have not been consistent in putting on these accessories to a pretty good life. And so we have no response when we get caught bereft of these community enhancing qualities. At our worst we will blame someone else for our failure. At our best we will apologize and get back to this great work.

Ours is the task of uniting and reconciling all people. This story reminds us to put down our inattention and pick up the intention "to prepare, in our daily lives, a banquet" already begun in our midst.

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