Just take a few moments and consider this scenario: you have received a personal invitation to a party at the Government House in Canberra. Not only that, you will also be picked up with the Prime Minister’s official car. You accepted the invitation, but on the day of the party, you decide to go and walk your dog rather than attend.
Now, let us also imagine this other scenario. Let us assume that the Prime Minister was so concerned that you might not have the appropriate dress and therefore gave you a cheque to buy some formal wear. But you just didn’t bother to buy something presentable and showed up at the Government House in the dirty overalls you love to wear when you are gardening.
How do you think the Prime Minister would react in both cases? Well, your guess is as good as mine.
Today’s parable is more than a story about a king and a banquet. It narrates the story of salvation history in which God sent messengers with Good News, which some rejected and others accepted.
There are some parallels between today’s parable and the one we read last week, the parable of the Wicked Tenants. In both, the owner or king provides something wonderful. In last week, it was a fine vineyard, in today a wedding banquet. In both, slaves are sent to convey a message, and the people mistreat and kill the slaves. In both, the landowner and the king persist, sending other slaves, whom the people also mistreat. In both, the people are punished. In both, the son is involved, although in different ways.
Today, I want us to focus on certain aspects of today’s gospel reading. First, I want to start with a question. Why did the people reject the invitation for the Banquet? The parable simply said that the guests “would not come”. They offered no excuses, but simply refused to honour the invitation.
Some commentators have suggested that there were political reasons for refusing the invitation. The attendance of the great men of the kingdom at the wedding feast of the king’s son would be expected not only as a necessary expression of the honour they owed the king but also as an expression of their loyalty to the legitimate succession to his throne.
They knew full well that their behaviour would be understood as insurrection. Apparently, this was what they intended, and those who killed the king’s messengers only made this intention known more emphatically. In this light, the king’s violent response becomes easy to understand.
Others have said that the primary reason that those invited didn’t go was because they didn’t want to go. It’s not a situation where they couldn’t come. They just didn’t want to. Their “not wanting” to attend indicated that they did not view the invitation as an honour or privilege, even though it came from a king.
This is followed by a second invitation. Even if they didn’t like the king, perhaps they would come because of all the good, free food. Again, the invitees’ responses showed a lack of respect. We read that “they made light of it.” Here is a response of apathy. They wanted to do what they wanted to do and when they wanted to do it.
They went about their ordinary affairs, “one to his own farm, another to his merchandise”. Good things, not bad, distracted them. These aren’t excuses, but personal concerns that they think are more important than the king’s invitation to this most important celebration for his son.
Temptations often come in many good forms: work, taking care of children, cleaning the house, cooking and washing dishes, paying bills, mowing the lawn, walking the dog or repairing a leaky sink. Where can we find room on our “to-do” list for God?
We see this same thing happening all around us every day, especially on Sundays. A lot of people offer different excuses for not attending Church. But the truth is that when we don’t want to do something, any excuse will do, no matter how flimsy or absurd.
Finally, let us look at the man who attended but without the wedding garment. We must point out that the wedding garment here has nothing to do with the kind of clothing, fancy or plain, that we wear to church.
It is just an allegory, and Jesus didn’t explain exactly what this represents. Wearing the garment indicates one’s participation in the joy of the feast. To appear in ordinary, soiled working clothes would show contempt for the occasion, a refusal to join in the king’s rejoicing.
In this case, this man is as guilty as those who rejected the invitation. They refused the invitation to the feast; he shows contempt on the feast while attending it.
In effect, he has not really accepted the invitation, since the invitation is not just to be physically present at the feast but also to participate in the king’s rejoicing over the marriage of his son.
What does wearing the Garment for the Wedding Feast mean? It means being clothed anew, and this is a New Testament expression for holiness and righteousness.
This text, therefore, confronts us today with the paradox of God’s free invitation to his kingdom with no strings attached and God’s requirement of “putting on” something appropriate to that calling.
Making it to heaven is a two-way thing between us and God. God has fulfilled his part by throwing the invitation open to everyone. Let us ask in this Mass for the grace to enable us to do our part.