By invite only. MATTHEW 22:1–14
By Fr Mikhail Woodruffe O Carm
It may be helpful to place our minds in a time outside of the COVID-19 social-gathering restrictions to understand this gospel text.
The king has prepared a great feast for the special occasion of his son’s wedding. Who is chosen to sit at one’s table was quite exclusive in this cultural context especially for royalty. One had table fellowship with persons in their standing in society.
It seems hard to come to terms with the invited guests’ turning down an invite to such an elite occasion with excuses of private affairs to attend to. Other invited guests seize the messengers and murder them, reminiscent of the same actions of last Sunday’s ungrateful vineyard tenants.
This should leave us shocked and confused. The servants were kidnapped and murdered simply for bringing the message of the wedding invitation of the century. By this act, the invited guests insult the king and his authority. They deem themselves as more important than the king and he has the final word.
The king decides to broaden the invite list and orders his servants to “go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding”. His invitation in our modern times may be on loudspeakers, billboards, and social media.
The servants came back from their human-fishing expedition, hauling with them everyone they could find, “bad and good alike”. The wedding hall is now filled with guests and the king is satisfied.
The king has in attendance unlikely persons who do not fall into the initial elite category. He willingly and generously breaks the status quo of his time to have a packed hall.
The refusal to accept the words of the Old Testament prophets of God and their murder is represented by the murder of the messengers yet again. They brought an invitation for salvation and to the perfect wedding feast of the Lamb, Jesus.
Yet again Jesus is addressing the chief priests and elders, the elite, who themselves have received the wedding invitation from the messenger John the Baptist and refused. They are preoccupied with whom should not be invited.
The King in Heaven does not discriminate like we do. God invites and is hopeful that all will accept the invitation to His eternal wedding feast in Heaven. It is up to us to respond to this invitation.
Many of us have or have seen an image of Jesus knocking at a door. It is powerful to take a close look at this image and to see that there is no lock or knob on the outside.
Jesus knocks at the doors of our hearts and it is we who have the gift to choose to respond by opening the doors of our hearts and our souls to this God of boundless generosity.
What do we do about the one guest who shows up and is thrown out because he was not wearing a wedding garment? Isn’t the saying: “render your heart and not your garments?”
This mention is not meant to be our proof of who should or should not be welcomed into our parish churches based on dress. The wedding host of such a feast would have supplied the festive wedding garments to his guests. The man who is singled out has made a personal choice not to cooperate with the host.
The spiritual meaning here is a reminder of our need to be spiritually clothed in Christ. To enter the heavenly banquet, we are invited to let go of what obstructs us from God and instead put on the love of Christ. This is shown in our love of God and our love of neighbour, especially the hungry, homeless, wayward, sick, and imprisoned.
We are called to mirror the generosity of God who welcomed persons on the margins far and wide to the wedding feast of His Son. As St Augustine tells us, “The love that springs from a pure heart… is the wedding garment. Examine yourselves to see whether you possess it. If you do, your place at the Lord’s table is secure.”
The gospel meditations for October are by Fr Mikhail Woodruffe O Carm, a Trinidadian Carmelite friar who recently finished Carmelite formation in the United States.