Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
This week, the attention of our entire community has been focused on the wildfires to the north of us. There has been so much damage done. Tragically, the number of those who have lost their lives keeps increasing. With thousands of structures being destroyed, countless families now find themselves homeless. The smoke and ash that has been our constant companion this week serves as a reminder of the harshness of this disaster and the sorrowful toll that it is taking on so many. By now, most of us know someone who has lost a home, a business, or worse yet, someone related to one of the victims.
So great is the impact of this fire that the horrific loss of life in the Las Vegas shootings just two weeks ago seems but a distant memory. It seems even longer but it has only been a few weeks since we watched the rescue workers coming to the aid of those buried under the rubble in Mexico City after the earthquake that killed nearly 400 people. Stretching our memories just a little farther, recalling those who suffered from the effects of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The communities in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico are still recovering from the devastation. I know, from the conversations that I’ve had with many of you that I’m not alone in coming to terms with the amount of suffering that we all have witnessed recently.
These images of suffering accompanied me as I prepared for this homily. And while pondering the scripture for today, reflecting on banquettes of rich food and choice wines or the opulence of a wedding feast, embracing this festive imagery was rather difficult.
But a lavish celebration boasting grandeur and merriment is not quite what Jesus had in mind. In his parable, Jesus was calling everyone into the kingdom of God. He wants all of us closer to him. God stretches open his embrace to reach all of us because we are his creation and his love for us knows no limit. The image of the wedding feast serves to provide for us an invitation to share in the goodness that is God’s love. The image of the feast suggests that there will be no want, nothing will be lacking, while we are in communion with God. Everything will be provided. The abundance of the feast, the rich food, the choicest wines, the fatted calf, remind us that what God provides is far superior to anything else we may imagine.
But just as the king in today’s gospel threw out, into the darkness, the guest who arrived without a wedding garment, our response to Christ’s invitation is crucial. When the king summoned his guest, they responded by ignoring him and going back to their fields. Some of the guests responded by beating then killing the servants who brought the invitation. And the guest who arrived without the wedding garment, responded by failing to accept fully the invitation to what he was called to do.
Just as it was inappropriate for the guest to attend the wedding feast of the king’s son without a wedding garment, it is inappropriate for us to enter into the presence of God and not clothe ourselves in compassion, forgiveness, and love for all of humanity. We are called to show mercy and charity to those who we hold most dear, to those who we don’t really like, and to those who we don’t know. Our response to Christ’s invitation should move us to care.
As I mentioned, the devastation and suffering which we have all recently witnessed has created an opportunity for us to be authentic with our response to being invited to the feast. We, now, get to make longer and wider the table of the banquette. For the gifts that we have already received from God are not ours to hoard but rather to share. So many people around us find themselves in pain. There are a great number of folks in this church and beyond who are suffering. There are many who find themselves alone or in despair. There are way too many who are disillusioned by the state of our church and religion as a whole. Christ implores us to, “Go out therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” This is what our response is supposed to be as God’s servants.
We, individually and collectively, can ease the burden or suffering of others. We can offer assistance and hope to folks in need. We can offer understanding and inclusion to those who find themselves alone or alienated. We can help those who cannot help themselves. We can invite those who we encounter to the feast.
Just before he was elected pope, Francis gave a brief speech which included the following, “The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only in the geographical sense but also to go to the existential peripheries: those of the mysteries of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and of religious indifference, of thought, of all misery.”
Our invitation to the feast allows us to receive Christ. Our response to the invitation compels us to spread his reach far beyond the walls of this church.