Saturday, October 8, 2011

Banquets and Clothes

Readings for Sunday, October 9:
Isaiah 25:6-10
Psalm 23:1-6
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
Matthew 22:1-14

Last weekend we heard the Lord speaking with the chief priests and elders in the form of a parable about tenants killing the servants and son of a vineyard owner and then themselves being put to death and the vineyard given to others. It was a harsh parable that Jesus spoke to show them that the vineyard of Israel would be given to a new people if they rejected Him. Immediately following that, we have the parable we hear this week – a story that ultimately is an analogy to responding to the gospel message and attaining salvation.

The king having a banquet for his son is symbolic of God the Father celebrating the redemption of man by Christ Jesus’ victory over death, wherein all men are able to attain salvation and be ‘wedded’ in a sense to God in Heaven. Entering the banquet is equated with entering the Church; to remain is to gain eternal life. The servants sent out to the invited guests and met with unconcern or violence are the prophets who proclaim the truth to the people of Israel and are met with derision and violence. When the wedding feast is ready and all is prepared, we are to understand that redemption is at hand and it need only be responded to; one need simply say yes. As Jesus tells this to the chief priests and elders, those who rejected Him and the prophets before Him, he is essentially letting them know that they are rejecting the invitation to redemption; they are refusing to enter the fold and attain salvation. In choosing their earthly concerns, they have chosen their eternal reward.

With the rejection of the first group, the invitation is opened to all who are available to come; this is the mission to the gentile nations, those not of Hebrew blood, which includes most of us. The invitation is extended to all who are around, not just a specified group. Surely some of those who were invited then failed to accept the invitation as well, but many did come and entered the banquet. This is what happens with the gospel message as well. Once it was opened to all nations, there were still some who rejected it and many who accepted and entered the Church.

And then we come to the entrance of the King, who approaches the man without the wedding garment. This is a sign of the final judgment because it is not some servant who comes to judge but the king himself who asks about the garment. And the man is left silent because he knows that he had every chance to prepare. Many were gathered and yet he came unprepared. Rather than go, clean up, and dress in the appropriate attire, he simply went and thought it would be fine. He didn’t think that the attire was really that important. We’ve all heard that ‘God meets us where we are’. But we can’t just stay there, we have to be met where we are and then brought to where we need to be. It’s about conversion and this is where the man failed. He was not willing to change himself and be dressed in righteousness. In a way, it’s like every kind word, helpful action and prayer offered are threads that come together to build up a garment of holiness in our lives. The challenge is to put forth the effort to be dressed appropriately.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: when the Lord looks upon us, both at the final judgment and today, we have to wonder what does He see – a beautiful garment of righteousness or a soul who is content being Catholic and nothing more?