Sunday Scripture: An invitation to the kingdom of God
October 9, 2011
By Father Timothy P. Schehr
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Isaiah 25:6-10a; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:12-20; Matthew 22:1-14
Wedding invitations are so special they are easy to spot in a stack of mail. They are often layered with enclosures, the details prominently displayed in embossed ink on quality paper or parchment. As soon as we open them we check the date on our calendars and send in a reply. Then we start thinking what to wear and what gift to bring.
This Sunday’s Gospel includes a parable about a royal wedding. It is hard to imagine someone turning down an invitation from the royal court. Yet that is precisely what happens in this parable. The king sends out his servants to summon the guests, and they refuse to come! It is almost unimaginable. Were the invited guests really so busy they did not have time for the king?
But the king in the Lord’s parable is persistent, and very patient too. He sends other servants to the same guests, reminding them of the fine banquet that has been prepared. If they do not come, they will miss out on so much. Some guests ignore even this reminder and go back to their daily routine. Others do the unthinkable. They mistreat the king’s servants and even kill them. Did they really think the king would take no notice?
As we listen to the Lord’s parable, it dawns on us that is this royal wedding story is loaded with meaning. It helps to remember Jesus is teaching us how His Father invites us to the kingdom of heaven. People all too often just ignore the invitation altogether; they are too wrapped up in their own interests to be bothered thinking about eternal life. And in history God’s prophets, those special servants sent out to invite people to come back to God, were sometimes treated badly and even killed.
But still God does not give up inviting people to eternal life. The feast awaits, so God sends more servants inviting everyone they find “bad and good alike” as the Lord says. Now the royal hall is filled with guests! Those bad folks must have changed for the better, motivated simply by the honor of having been invited to a royal wedding. The parable could have ended here. But the Lord has still one more lesson to make about the kingdom of heaven.
As the king circulates among the guests he finds one man without a wedding garment. It seems this one guest could not be bothered to change his ways at all. The king asks why. At this point this wayward guest could have recognized the opportunity he was being given and declared his willingness to change. Instead he has nothing to say and thus forfeits his invitation to the feast.
This parable of the kingdom challenges people to recognize that God invites all into the kingdom. But it is their responsibility to make the necessary changes to be worthy to enter the kingdom. Why would anyone turn down such an honor and such a banquet?
The prophet Isaiah would have appreciated this parable. Centuries before the Lord’s time, Isaiah looked forward to the day his people would realize God can provide so much more for them. The resources of earth are limited; God has a banquet just waiting for those who turn to God in faith. Psalm 23 expresses the same through its memorable lines about the table God has prepared for us. And Paul assures his dear Philippians God will provide whatever they need to one day enjoy His “glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
Father Schehr is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.