Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
Is 25,6-10a, Ps 22, 1-6, Phil 4,12-14.19-20, Mt 22,1-14
Weddings are supposed to be happy events, a joy-filled occasion to get together with friends and family to celebrate the sacrament that unites a man and a woman as one flesh until death. It’s in the context of a wedding, or, rather, a wedding feast, that Jesus proclaims the parable in today’s Gospel. At first glance, the whole affair seems rather unpleasant: the invited guests refuse to come, some kill the messengers, and then “are destroyed and their cities burned.” Likewise, one of the guests who doesn’t have the right clothes is kicked out “into the darkness . . . with wailing and grinding of teeth.” Yet, Jesus is making a very powerful statement about God’s love for us, and what we need to do to respond to that love.
We can break the parable into two parts: the first, regarding the invitation and the refusal of those who were invited, and second, the king’s open invitation to everyone, and the guest who is kicked out.
Regarding the invitation, the king’s rage and actions might surprise us, since it seems like a very violent way to respond. However, in order to understand the king’s behavior, we need to understand how the invitations for weddings worked in Jesus’ time.
If we listened carefully, we heard that the servants were sent “to summon the invited guests to the feast.” In other words, when the servants went out, it wasn’t to just anyone: there had already been a previously invitation. This is because “there were two invitations to the banquet, one well in advance of the event [a sort of save-the-date or advance warning] and another the day of the banquet – each brought by a special messenger. The second invitation went to ‘those who had been invited,’” meaning, they had accepted the first invitation, and had promised to clear their schedules and be there, but now they rejected the second and refused to come. The culture of that time was very big on invitations; it was an honor to be invited, and so “to accept the first invitation, but scorn the second, was the height of insult – tantamount to war.”
If it was so important to go the feast, why did the guests refuse? There’s two groups of people: Matthew tells us that this first group, “ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.” The word Jesus uses is very specific: it means they were “unconcerned” about the invite, or “unaffected” by it. They “viewed [it] as being without significance, that is, without perceived value.” It was unimportant for them, and they allowed themselves to be busied, indeed, too busied, with the things of daily life, the things they considered important, to really care about the invitation. Notice that the things they went off and did weren’t bad things: they didn’t go off to steal, or murder, or cause problems. No, they went about their daily routine, caring about their businesses and farms. These aren’t bad things in themselves, but they cared so much about them that they forgot about what really mattered. There’s a lesson for us here: we, too, can get so caught up on the things of this world, on the things of this life, that we forget about things eternal, about what really matters, about joining God forever in His heavenly banquet.
The other group, the second group, was much worse: they mistreated and even killed the servants. Note, too, that this is the second batch of servants that the king sends. He didn’t need to send a second group; the first should have been enough. Yet, in his mercy, the king sends another set, only to have them be mistreated and killed. The reaction of those invited is completely unwarranted; they’re the ones who are in the wrong, and it’s because of this rejection that they warrant a punishment: death. The focus of the parable, though, isn’t on death; the main point isn’t the punishment they get. The king wanted to invite them to an amazing celebration! That’s all! And yet, because they rejected it, they chose punishment rather than enjoyment, suffering and sorrow rather than happiness.
This is important for our lives: God wants us to join Him in the heavenly banquet, to be happy with Him forever; it’s not that He wants to punish us! He invites us to come join Him, and asks only that we unite ourselves to Him by doing good and avoiding evil. Yet, if we treat that invitation as something unimportant, or as something that doesn’t affect me in my daily living, then we will find ourselves left outside, and there, there is only suffering, sorrow, and remorse. We can ask ourselves: how does our faith affect our daily living? Do I live every moment as a response to God’s invitation to live to warrant an eternal reward?
This leads us to our second point: the king’s open invitation to everyone, and the guest who is kicked out. After the invited guests are found unworthy, the king issues a puzzling order: “Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” It might strike us as odd that the king says to invite whomever, even though these people will be in his house, eating his food, and celebrating a very personal event. And, true to their instructions, the servants find whomever; Jesus makes a point of saying that these were “all they found, bad and good alike.” Good and bad alike! And yet, they’re all invited to partake in the feast. It seems that God is more anxious to save sinners than the sinners themselves are to be saved. In fact, Saint John Vianney wrote that “God is quicker to forgive than a mother to snatch her child from the fire.” “God is quicker to forgive than a mother to snatch her child from the fire.” That’s the generosity and mercy of our God. He wants all to be saved and to join Him in the heavenly banquet.
We’re still left, though, with the case of the one guest who wasn’t dressed in a wedding garment. Again, it might seem strange that the king binds and kicks out a man who doesn’t have a wedding garment, but, here, too, the historical setting is important. Since weddings were such important events, and the most important time to dress up, it was the responsibility of the hosts to provide the guests with the festal garments so that everybody would be properly dressed. In other words, the king provided the garment. So, if there’s a man not dressed in a wedding garment, it’s not because he’s too poor to buy one; rather, it’s because he refuses to wear what was given him. This is why the king is so angry. It’s true that some of the guests were bad people when they showed up; Jesus Himself tells us that. However, they didn’t stay that way. They let God’s mercy and forgiveness cover them, and that’s how they were able to enter the banquet. To get in, they needed that purification, that grace, and hence the king notices immediately the one who doesn’t fit it: “My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?” “How did you even get in the door, if you didn’t ask forgiveness, if you weren’t made a new creation by grace, if you didn’t convert and change, not your garments, but your heart?” It’s impossible; such a one cannot enter the heavenly banquet.
In our lives, too, we’ve been covered with the grace of baptism and the sacraments. These are the garments God has given us, and He continues to give us everything that we need to enter into the kingdom of Heaven, to do His will on earth so that we can be with Him forever in paradise. We can ask ourselves: are we faithful to those graces? Are we really wearing our garment of grace or do we, like that unhappy guest, refuse to live as our Christian vocation demands? Today, let us give thanks to God for the grace of our baptism and the sacraments that we have received, and really examine ourselves to see how well we are living them. Let us ask, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, for the grace to continue to give up everything for Jesus, so that we might be able to enter the wedding feast of heaven.
 Shepherd’s Notes: Manners & Customs of Bible Times.
 HELPS Word-studies 272: ἀμελέω
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 79.