A Daily Gospel Reflection
by Deacon Kurt Heinrich
Thursday, August 20, 2020
20th week in Ordinary Time
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying,
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Dear Friends and Family,
This parable is puzzling. Most people understand the concept of someone refusing an invitation. There may have even been a time or two when someone refused an invitation we offered. The King’s generosity of inviting all, “bad and good alike”, into the feast is a hopeful image to those of us who may not feel worthy of God’s mercy. But this offer is quickly soured by the King’s following action. The one who did not expect to find himself in company of the King is berated because of his attire. It seems to oppose the very mercy just illustrated. So what message is Jesus trying convey?
In ancient times, people had few garments. The process of making clothing from scratch was very labor intensive and time consuming. Combining this reality with the unexpected nature of the invitation and you have a seemingly unrealistic expectation being made by the King. However, if we understand the customs and generosity of Kings, we might gain another insight. The King knows the limitations of his people. It would be the responsibility of the King to provide the festive wedding garments. It would be the task of the servants standing at the door to offer a simple colorful cloak that would be worn over the day-to-day wear of the people. The man refuses the festive wedding garment which was freely offered to him. The rejection of the garment disrespects the celebration at hand and insults the generosity of the King. These symbolic images speak of the Kingdom to come. We can assume the King is God and wedding feast is heaven. All are welcome as long as we accept the invitation. We do nothing to earn the invitation but we must accept it and journey to the feast. The wedding garment represents the white garment we received at our baptism. Again it’s not earned but rather generously given to us by the King of Kings. All we need to do is receive it.
We have all been invited, so how is Jesus inviting us to the feast today? What is our response? We can invent many ways to excuse ourselves, to justify our absence. Perhaps we have we tucked our white garments away for fear of what others may think? Maybe our garments are soiled and we are embarrassed by their condition. Maybe we fear who we might encounter at the feast. Are there some who are always invited or others whom we seem to exclude from feast? We should always be mindful of wearing our garment well. We have been invited to the feast. Let us celebrate with the King; wearing the garment he has given us well and enjoying the rich blessing of our King.