“And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.!” (Matthew 22:10)
For a couple of weeks now, Jesus has been speaking to us in parables. Last Sunday, Jesus told us of the tenants who leased a vineyard but when it was time for the harvest refused to give the produce of the vineyard to the landowner. They beat up the servants, injured some and killed others. When the landowner sent his son, they dragged him out and killed him. Something similar happens in today’s parable. A man invited his friends to his son’s wedding and when it was time for feast, he sent servants to them to remind the invited guests only for them to give excuses, treat the servants shamefully and even kill them. This brings us to our lessons today:
1. Actions Speak Louder than Words.
Why would tenants be bold enough to kill the servants sent to collect their rent? Why would guests after accepting an invitation to a banquet turn around to kill the servants sent to remind them of the banquet? These parables are troubling, they speak of injustice and wickedness in the hearts of people. Yet, the truth is that Jesus is speaking directly to us in these parables. Yes, we are those tenants. Yes, we are those guests. How?
We forget that this world is not our own, we refuse to give God His due by bearing fruits with our lives, we turn down God’s invitation to holiness of life with several excuses, we kill our prophets and silence those who tell us the truth. On the day of our baptism, we accepted God’s invitation by rejecting Satan but when it was time for us to attend the banquet (to let our light shine, to live out our Christian values), we put God to shame. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.
2. Heaven is Worth Struggling For.
Our first reading, our responsorial psalm and Gospel passage today describe the kingdom of God in terms of a banquet, a place of abundance of food and drinks. Isaiah says, “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things…” Our Psalmist sings: “You have prepared a table before me… my cup is overflowing.” And in our Gospel passage, Jesus tells us of a great banquet to which everyone in the streets was invited.
What does this tell us? Heaven is Sweet. Heaven is beyond words. Peter only saw a tiny flash of it at the transfiguration and he confessed: “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Matthew 17:4). Dear friends, the truth is that we are made for heaven and there is nothing in this world that can satisfy us. I bet, if only we knew how sweet heaven is, we would go down our knees and beg God to take us there immediately. Peter did not want to leave, none of us would like to leave such a place when all our desires would be finally satisfied.
3. Heaven is Only for Those Who Make God a Priority.
Among those invited for the wedding banquets were some who simply gave excuses and these excuses all bothered on material things; one went to his farm, another went to his business. No wonder, in His explanation of the parable of the sower, Jesus describes those seed that fell among thorns saying: “This is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22) Jesus clearly told us that we cannot serve two masters. It is either we are pursuing money or we are pursuing heaven.
Let us ask ourselves: Is my desire to make money an obstacle to my desire to make heaven? Does my business prevent me from giving enough time to the things of God? Is my job one that requires me to go against my conscience by telling lies (cheating customers), stealing, prostituting my body, killing others (abortion, character defamation, murder), denying God etc. Am I working for a kidnapper, a ritual killer or one who I know is not pure? Those as these servants went after money in place of the wedding banquet, we shoot ourselves out of heaven when we make money our god.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul exhorts the Philippians on the virtue of contentment when he says, he knows how to be abased and how to abound, how to be hungry and how to have plenty, how to be in want and how to have abundance. If you do not want to fall into the temptation of turning money into your god, learn to be content with whatever you have. Learn to trust God completely that He is able to supply exactly what you need according to His riches in glory. Jesus even said: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all (money, success in business, comfort, luxury etc.) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:32-33). If because of God, you resign that evil job or stop that crime that pays you blood money, I bet you God will open new doors for you.
4. Avoid Over-Familiarity; do not take God for Granted.
Most of us started well. When we gave our lives to Christ, we were on fire with the things of God but today, we have become like walking-dead spiritually. Some of us cannot even remember the last time we went for confession or the last time we read a passage of the Bible on our own. In this parable given by Jesus, there was a man who had successfully come into the banquet hall but as the feast progressed, the king discovered that he was without his wedding garment.
There could be several interpretations of this parable but this is what I think. If the man was not wearing his wedding garment from the beginning, he would have been turned back at the gate. Having begun well, he must have become so relaxed that he decided to take off his wedding garment. Hence, he deserved the punishment that followed. If it was because he was poor and could not afford a wedding garment, why would the king be so cruel as to bind him hand and foot and cast him to a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth?
Dear friends, never take God for granted. Yes, He is our Father. He is very understanding and His love is unending. However, do not take off your wedding garment. Remember the day of your baptism? Do not stain that white garment which is a symbol of your purity. Do not quench that lighted candle. Do not sink into sin.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you are my shepherd, deepen my trust in your providing hand that I may not pursue only the things of this world. Amen.
Bible Study: Isaiah 25:6-10, Psalm 23, Philippians 4:12-20 and Matthew 22:1-14).