October 12, 2008
ORDINARY 28 (A)
Many are invited, but few are chosen. Mt. 22: 14
This story begins with a select guest list: the religious leadership of Israel . When they refuse or ignore the invitation, it is extended indiscriminately to anyone who will come. The wedding of the king’s son (who we may take to be our Lord Himself) becomes a beggar’s feast, a gathering of those who hear & accept the invitation.
This does not mean, however, that there is not any discrimination ultimately, for the guests are the bride. They were not invited to witness a wedding, but to become married to the son. They were not invited to observe, but to participate. The prerequisite is a wedding garment, an eagerness to be united to the son. It signifies a readiness to understand & act on our Lord’s teachings. They must make them their own. If they do not do this & are reduced to silence, a silence of incomprehension, they cannot remain at the feast. This is a wedding for those who want to be married.
So if this parable is a judgment against the religious leadership of Israel , it is also a cautionary tale for us. Just belonging to the Church is not enough. Hearing the call by accepting baptism is not enough – it is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being in full communion with the son.
“Marrying the son” is a metaphor for the Christian adventure of spiritual development. Entry into the Church implies growing into the teachings of Christ. Within Christian religious traditions faith is presented as the gift of someone else. It comes from past generations, going all the way back to the apostles & Christ. But the gift comes wrapped, & it must be opened by each of us. This act of reception – seeking understanding – means being mindful, struggling to understand & live what this faith is all about. In short, it is either appropriated or ignored by individuals. If all we do is respond half-heartedly to the call, the outcome of the adventure will be fatal. Hearing must be followed by understanding, & understanding must lead to action.
So it is that we ourselves are intimately involved in the sorting out process. God does not have to judge us; we judge ourselves by not having a wedding garment. This does not mean, however, that it is a simple black & white, cut & dried process. Timing is critical. People go deeper into their inherited faith at different times. Some come looking for help after failure; some come in gratitude after success. Many come after death has taken someone who ate at their table.
We cannot say that eventually everyone will put on the wedding garment, but neither can we say that some will certainly not. The timetables of our lives are quite distinct & individual. If home is a place where they have to take you in when you go, the Church is a place that when you are ready for more you are always welcomed.
Good & bad are not final states, but temporary labels. Once in side, you might learn that the Son finds you desirable. Even though you did not come with a wedding garment, the groom has one for you. He has chosen it with great love. AMEN!