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Only a fool would refuse the King’s invitation

Published: October 20, 2017   
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Oct. 15.

Jesus’ parables are all comparisons. The one in today’s Gospel says, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to” and then Jesus compares it to a wedding feast. But, of course, we do have to make the connection to understand what he means.

Stories that make a single point of comparison are parables; those that make multiple comparisons are called allegories — and we have both in this story of the wedding feast. Actually what we have here are three independent stories that were later interwoven into the story as we now have it.

n First, the overall framework of a story about a king who summons guests to his son’s wedding. Our translation says invites, but everyone knows that when the king invites, you can’t refuse, except these idiots make excuses, so he summons the riff-raff to take their place.

Everyone knows that when the king invites, you can’t refuse, except these idiots make excuses.

n Into this framework the author has interwoven an allegory used by early Christians to interprete the meaning of the destruction of Jerusalem. The enemies of the king (the enemies of God) murder his messengers (the prophets, Jesus and the apostles) so in anger the king (God) destroys them and burns their city — which the Romans did to Jerusalem in 70 AD.

n And then at the end of the text we have the parable of the invited guest who came not properly dressed. The central point that unites these three stories is the horrible destiny of those who do not respond to the king’s summons: He casts them out into the darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Jesus said, “Many are invited but few are chosen” but he could just as well have said, “Many are invited but few respond.”

All three parts of this parable apply directly also to us and to the people of today.

n First, you and I are summoned to the wedding feast of the Son of God, to this Eucharistic banquet every single weekend.

We say God invites us to Mass because people should be eager to come, but everyone knows that when God invites, you can’t refuse — except that there are many fools today who make lame excuses similar to the idiots in our parable, saying in effect, “I’m too busy” or “I just don’t feel like coming every single week,” preferring to do household chores or make a little extra money or take their kids to sporting events instead of responding to the invitation of the King.

n Second, we live in a society that is far more murderous than Jerusalem was in 70 AD. We kill babies in the womb and have laws that trap people in poverty (immigration law) and the policies of our government cause destruction throughout the world, deeds that undoubtedly anger the same God that punished Jerusalem so severely in Matthew’s time.

n And third, many people come to the banquet not properly dressed, so to speak, their garments soiled by unforgiven sins, their hearts unrepentant, at Mass only to fulfill an obligation, which at least is better than not coming at all.

If they’re here there’s at least some chance that the words of the Gospel might finally penetrate their hearts, even hearts that at present are far from the Lord. But if not, the consequences of having a soul that is still not properly dressed for this banquet, a heart that is still far from the Lord, will be really bad.

Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of heaven is as true today as ever — many are invited but few respond — so he warns us through this parable of the wedding feast that despite everything he says elsewhere about God’s love and forgiveness, we should not forget that our eternal destiny in heaven depends entirely on how we respond to his offer of love and forgiveness.

And what is the sad fate of those who fail to respond appropriately to the king’s summons? He casts them out into the darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

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