Sunday, October 12, 2014
A universal invitation to the banquet of the Realm
To welcome salvation with the right disposition
1. Opening prayer
Spirit of truth, sent by Jesus to guide us to the whole truth, enlighten our minds so that we may understand the Scriptures. You who overshadowed Mary and made her fruitful ground where the Word of God could germinate, purify our hearts from all obstacles to the Word. Help us to learn like her to listen with good and pure hearts to the Word that God speaks to us in life and in Scripture, so that we may observe the Word and produce good fruit through our perseverance.
a) The context:
The meaning of the parable is quite clear when we read it in its context. It comes straight after another parable on the Realm (21:33-43) and is part of an argument between Jesus and the high priests and the Pharisees on his mission and authority (see 21:23-46).
In the preceding parable, the parable on the vineyard, Jesus sums up the history of salvation. God enveloped Israel with special care and hoped that such care would have produced fruit in the shape of a life of faithfulness and justice. From time to time God sent prophets to remind the people of the fruit that God expected, but their mission always met with Israel’s rejection. Finally, God sent his own Son, but they killed him. At this point Jesus says that because Israel continued to reject the Realm, the Realm would therefore pass on to another people, that is, the pagans (21:43). This pronouncement gives us the key to the reading of our parable, which really repeats the message of the previous parable using a different image and with different nuances.
We must affirm clearly that both parables can in no way justify the idea that God rejected Israel in favour of the Church. Suffice it to read Romans 9-11 to be convinced of the contrary. Jesus says hard things, prophetic things, to draw his people to repentance and for them to accept him. Besides, the pagans too, the newly invited ones, run the risk of being thrown out if they do not wear the wedding garment.
b) The text:
Jesus began to speak to them in parables once again, 'The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son's wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants with the words, "Tell those who have been invited: Look, my banquet is all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding." But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, "The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the main crossroads and invite everyone you can find to come to the wedding." So these servants went out onto the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, "How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?" And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot and throw him into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth." For many are invited but not all are chosen.'
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) Whom do the invited guests who refuse the invitation represent?
b) Whom do the newly invited guests found in the street represent?
c) Whom does the person without the wedding garment represent?
d) Are there "urgent matters" in my life that prevent me from accepting God’s invitation?
e) What is the wedding garment God wants me to wear for me to take part at the wedding banquet of the Realm of God?
5. A key to the reading
for those who wish to go deeper into the text.
● The banquet of the Realm
The prophets often proclaimed the benefits of salvation and especially those of the eschatological times through the image of a banquet. The first reading of this Sunday (Is 25:6-10a) is an example. Like Jesus, Isaiah too speaks of a banquet prepared by God for all peoples. However, the people of Israel and especially the city of Jerusalem remain at the centre of God’s plan as mediators of the salvation offered by God for all. In the New Testament, however, even though there is an admission that "salvation comes from the Jews" (Jn 4:22), the only mediator of salvation is Jesus, who continues to exercise his mediation through the community of his disciples, the Church.
● The wedding garment
It is an insult to the one who has sent the invitation to arrive at the feast wearing ordinary working clothes. It is sign of not giving proper consideration for the occasion to which one is invited. This image, used in the parable on the Realm, wants to convey the idea that one cannot enter the Realm without preparation, and the only preparation is conversion. In fact, to change garment in biblical terms means to change style of life or to be converted (see for instance Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27; Eph 4:20-24).
● "Many are called but few are chosen"
This expression is a Semitism. In the absence of the comparative, biblical Hebrew uses expressions that are based on drastic opposites. Hence this expression says nothing on the numerical relationship between those called into the Church and the elect to eternal life. However, it is also true that the parable makes a distinction between the call to salvation and election and final perseverance. The generosity of the ruler is huge, but we must be serious about the demands of the Realm. The expression is a pressing appeal not to be satisfied with just formal membership among the people of God. We cannot take salvation for granted. Here Jesus follows closely the teaching of the prophets. Recall Jer 7:1-15 and Os 6:1-6.
6. Psalm 47
The Lord is Ruler of Israel and the world
Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, is terrible,
a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves.
God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the king of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples
gather as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted!
7. Closing prayer
God, Lord of the world and Ruler of all peoples, from the beginning you have prepared a banquet for your children and you wish to gather us around your table to share in your own life. We thank you for having called us into your Church through Jesus your Son. May your Spirit make us ever attentive and ready to continue to accept your invitation and may we, through the same Spirit, put on the new person, created according to God in justice and in true holiness, in the image of Christ, so that we may enter the banquet of your Realm together with a multitude of brothers and sisters. Use us, if you so wish, to continue to call others to the universal banquet of your Realm.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.