For the third Sunday in a row, we hear another parable that Jesus tells the chief priests and elders in the temple in Jerusalem. This parable is the most powerful yet; there is a king and a royal wedding feast and people being killed and a city being burned down and someone at the end being bound and thrown out into the darkness. The parable is a wake up call, a final offer for those listening to realize who it is standing before them. They are even told how dire the consequences will be if they continue in their obstinacy and rejection.
The king giving the wedding feast is God the Father and the groom is Jesus. Many of the Jewish people have not accepted Jesus’ preaching. Their ancestors have mistreated and abused the prophets sent to them. And yet, all are still invited to the wedding feast. But some of those invited have other priorities and do not attend. Consequently, even more people are invited, bad and good alike, and finally the hall is filled. As in the parable, the Church, the bride of Christ, welcomes all into the joy of the eternal wedding feast that awaits us who are faithful in following Jesus.
At the end of the parable, the king, as he welcomes guests, sees someone without a wedding garment, and questions the person, who, having no answer, is cast out into the darkness. It is a stark reminder that each of us will face a judgment at the end of our life. More will be expected from us than having been baptized. As the baptism rite says, we need to have lived so as to have our baptismal garment unstained and our light still burning brightly when Christ comes again. To those who have been given much, much is expected. As Jesus says, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” We need to be sure we are among the chosen.
With this parable, Matthew reminds his community that the Church welcomes all people, Jews and Gentiles. He also reminds the community that there is more to the Christian life than accepting Jesus as Lord and Messiah. Members of the Church also have to do works of righteousness and charity. As Jesus did, they have act justly and charitably and do all that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Their righteousness has to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees. All this, of course, is true for us as well.
We have to ask ourselves some serious questions: Do we continue to respond to God’s invitation to live as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus? Or are we putting off our response to the invitation, as some in the parable did, due to worldly concerns or selfishness? Do we seek first the Kingdom of God or are there other priorities that are more important to us?
It is not enough to go to Mass on Sunday. God demands faith and action, words and deeds. We need to have a relationship with Jesus and be active members of the Church. We have been invited and have responded with our baptism. Are we also now working we to guarantee that we will be chosen as well?
Isaiah describes the heavenly banquet in the first reading at which God will wipe the tears from our eyes. Choice wine, always a symbol of joy, will be in abundance, and all of our hungers will be satisfied and death will be destroyed.
But until then, we have work to do, and, as Paul writes in the second reading, it will at times be humbling and distressing, but we can put our trust in Jesus who will supply everything we need. With Paul we are confident that we “can do all things in him who strengthen us.”
When we choose to say yes to God, no matter what is asked, we are promised a white robe of righteousness and a place at the royal wedding feast in heaven. When we choose anything other than that, we risk being cast into the darkness. We need to choose wisely each and every day, for we know neither the day nor the hour when we will stand before Jesus and have to give an account of what we have done.