“Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness.” (Matthew 22:12-13)
“Come and eat” is a universal language. To be invited to a meal is an honour. Turning down an invitation without any reason is a sign of irresponsibility. However, to go as far as beating up and even killing the person who brought the invitation card is a call for war. What kind of guests would hear “Come and eat” and still refuse to show up? This is very strange! But then, this is our situation today.
By not living according to the mind of God, we actually turn down His generous invitation. When we allow sin fester in our lives for whatever excuse, we are just like the guests who gave various reasons for their refusal to attend. We prove to God that these excuses are more important than our love for Him.
When we maltreat those who tell us the truth and call us to repentance, (just like Herod who killed John the Baptist), we are like the guests in Jesus’ parable who killed the servants of the Master just because they brought invitation cards.
When those invited did not show up, the master extended the invitation to everyone. The common lie we tell ourselves is: “People are bad but I am not that bad; I am better than most people; in fact, I am trying.” This was how the Jews felt when Jesus told them: “In truth, I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31). Even the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading today testifies that God will gather people from all nations.
The fact that we are church-going Christians is just the invitation card we have been given; but if we don’t leave our homes, if we don’t respond to this invitation (by the life we live), we cannot partake of the banquet of heaven. This brings us to the second aspect of the parable; the fact that something is free does not mean it is cheap. The fact that the guests were invited on a platter of gold did not give any of them the right to come in without a wedding garment.
The man who came in without a wedding garment symbolizes many Christians who take God for granted today; Christians who abuse the sacrament of penance; Christians who do not believe that God has a say with what they do with their bodies; Christians who are wolves in sheep clothing; Christians who try to eat their cake and still have it at the same time.
Salvation is free but it is not cheap. Faith without works is dead. If you say you love God, then let your love inspire your good works; put on your wedding garment – behave like someone who is preparing to spend forever in God’s presence.
Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Bernard, an Abbot and one of the Doctors of the Church. He is called a doctor because his writings have been found worthy of consumption and free from any doctrinal error. My favourite quote from St. Bernard is this: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions!”
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, do not cast me from your presence like this young man without a wedding garment. Amen
Bible Study: Ezekiel 36:23-28, Psalm 51:12-19, Matthew 22:1-14).