by Jackie Posek
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’
So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
As Gospel readings go, this one is a tough nut to crack for many people. It starts off easily enough, with the Kingdom of Heaven being compared to a king giving a wedding party for his son. But from there things get squirrelly. The invited guests murder the servants who ask them to come. That’s weirdly rude. Then, after the king offers an open-door policy for the party, he becomes enraged with the guy who comes in and isn’t dressed for the occasion. So that guy gets cast out into the outer darkness to suffer for all time. For a wedding reception, this event sounds like a pretty rough night.
But before we dismiss this reading, let’s consider the context. The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes a particular theme: the people of Israel have turned their backs on God. Moreover, sinners and Gentiles seem to be more open to God’s message, and are welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a shift for the Jewish people, who, according to the original covenant, would be the only ones who are saved. However, the coming of Jesus heralds a new covenant: all people can be saved. That doesn’t mean there are no requirements for entry, though. Salvation requires faith in Jesus Christ.
So if we look at the parable from a more symbolic standpoint, these seemingly violent events really represent the shift in the human relationship with God that the coming of Jesus brings. Ultimately, we are all eligible for salvation, if we come to the feast of God properly “attired” with hearts of faith open to God’s word. So let’s party!