Do NOT, please, do NOT take this parable (Matthew 22:1-14) literally. When we say that the kingdom of God may be compared to a king who goes out and kills those who refuse to come to the feast then we have problems. Today, there are Christians, Jews and Muslims who believe that God takes revenge; that God punishes horribly; that God gets enraged and sends his troops of destroying armies to destroy the wicked with fire. If we believe this about God, then no wonder we kill in the name of religion.
Fr. Daniel Berrigan claims that this Gospel is filled with dynamite. The parable of the wedding feast reflects two realities: the kingdom we envision and the kingdom God envisions. The kingdom can be compared to a wedding feast. God invites us. Jesus hosts us. And then we decide who gets into the feast and who stays out of the banquet hall.
Have you been following some of the reports about the Synod on the Family in Rome? On the second day of reports, a few participants stand up and question the negative language the official church uses when speaking about marriage and family issues. A few bishops stand up to say that when we use terms like “living in sin,” “intrinsically disordered, “contraceptive mentality,” and, “perpetual adultery,” we prevent people from growing closer to Christ and the Church. In the words of a Belgian bishop, “It is offensive and humiliating.”
This Gospel is dynamite. Look who is invited to the Banquet of the Lamb. Men and women, rich and poor, tall and short, gay and straight, Jew, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, American, Iranian, North Korean, Russian, the saint and the sinner…the list does not stop. According to St. Alphonsus Ligouri, if we knew all the sins of the saints, we would be shocked that they entered the banquet hall of the kingdom. God provides rich food and sweet drink for all those who accept the invitation provided we agree to wear the wedding garment.
We understand the wedding garment in two ways. First, in ancient times those people of money who come to the wedding wear festive garments to celebrate with the host and the wedded couple. But that is an historical application. Spiritually speaking, God invites us to the wedding for his son, Jesus. And, we, the Church, are the bride. We give ourselves to him at the feast. And we clothe ourselves in grace, in love and in gratefulness.
If St. Paul possess any true gift it is the gift of gratefulness. When he writes to his Christian friends in Philippi, he sends them a “thank you” note for their support and prayers as he lies in prison. Paul teaches them not to give up: whether in good times or in bad times, continue the ministry of bringing people into the banquet hall.
When someone tells us that we do not belong at the Banquet of the Lamb, do not believe them. In the beginning, God creates us all good, in his image and likeness. Everyday God invites us to the feast. Our task is to say yes, and then, get dressed. That, my friends, is dynamite!