Isaiah 25:6-10 Philippians 4:12-14.19-20 Matthew 22:1-14
Today’s readings tell us that God has wonderful things in store for us. All these readings taken from the Book of Isaiah, the Letter of Paul to the Philippians and the Gospel of Matthew speak of an invitation to the Great Feast of the Lord Jesus. Summarizing these readings, we see the first one which is prophetic in nature. It speaks of the Great Feast that is to come. The Second Reading echoes how God provides for our needs. The Third Reading tells us that God calls everyone but few answer His calling. Everyone, no matter what kind of past they have had, receives the same invitation to sit down at God’s table. However, having initially answered the invitation, we cannot take things for granted. There is no room for complacency.
The first and the third readings use the image of banquet and feast that tells us about the abundance of God’s love. This indeed should invite one to gratefulness and thanksgiving. Every one receives the invitation and all are called to respond to the invitation, from the first to the last. In Prophet Isaiah we have a graphic description of the great banquet that the Lord will prepare for his people. There will be rich food and fine wines; there will be neither mourning nor death. “The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek”. There will be exultation and rejoicing “that he has saved us”. The Second Reading appears to be wandering off the subject of the great banquet. But, indirectly, it fits perfectly with today’s other two readings. The reading shines in Divine Providence, showing how the Lord God provides for His children. Paul had learned to be content with whatever he had. He had learned the secret of being well fed, referring to spiritual food. He found strength in the Lord Jesus. While Paul had to endure sufferings for awhile, he saw the grace of God that came with such suffering. He endured all what was being sent his way for the sake of the spreading of the Gospel.
We return to the Gospel. On the surface it evokes mixed feelings: a king should cast into darkness a passerby from the street because he was not wearing a wedding garment. He was some one who was suddenly called and placed in the wedding hall. He may not have carried a wedding garment all the time with him. Because of the original refusals he was doing the king a favour by responding and coming for the meal. The servants too indiscriminately gathered all good and bad for the celebration. Yet he was singled out and was thrown into the outer darkness. Some have even suggested that in the cloak room garments were provided for all the guests. But a refusal to wear would be that person’s fault. In any case the man was wrong and not the king. This is clear from the key sentence of the Gospel which is revealing: “But he was silent.” He had no one word to say in his defense at least to say that he was unjustly accused. He had nothing to say, no excuse, no explanation, and no protest. His silence betrayed him and he was set aside.
This entire Gospel is a parable. It is a disguised announcement of the love of Jesus and the gift he gives to his community of charity and grace. When God calls there is always a sense of urgency. The only time to respond is NOW. We need always to be on the watch. That is not what happens here. We are told that those invited were simply not interested. The man who preferred his farm represents anyone who is attached to material things and refuses God’s invitation. The man who went to his merchandise represents those with an over eager desire for shallow fane and gain. Those who put to death the king’s servants represent those who by excessive greed, lust, selfishness and even addictions destroy the messengers who show the path to the kingdom.
With the refusal of those originally invited, the king once again repeats that the wedding is “ready”. There is an urgency to respond to the king’s call. The servants are now sent out, not to the houses of the wealthy and respectable, but to the “crossroads”. Here we have those who came for the wedding feast, those who have entered the kingdom, both the good and the bad and even the indifferent. The king enters the banquet hall and sees all. His presence is sufficient to be part of the kingdom yet he spots out the one without the wedding garment, the one who is a lukewarm believer. He asks friend why you are not wearing the wedding garment when others are wearing it. It is as if to say, friend I offer you so much of my love and why are you refusing me and remain cold towards me? If there was any response, it is the four words, but he was silent. To the person like any one else, plenty has been given and yet he has not shown any response. Instead he chose to remain silent, lazy and for this he receives the punishment.
Thus the warning of the Gospel: we have struggles and hardships in life. The situations can be too hard for us to reverse our position. But deep down they are not enough excuse to refuse a change in heart. Christ is still anxious to have us for the banquet. He is sending his servants still to us, our friends, the church, the sacraments, and the prayer. If we refuse his help and stay away there is no excuse to offer except the silence. We are sure the Lord is truly waiting for us to return to him and be one with him and join the meal clothed with the wedding garment. What is clear from this reading is that those who do not persevere, their punishment will be instant and severe. While all are called, not all answer their calling by the grace of God, some rejecting the invitation, some not accepting it fully. Not being adorned with a white robe that identifies them as children of God, those who neglect their salvation shall be thrown out in outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.