On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face; the reproach of His people He will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!" For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.(P) The word of the Lord.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me; He refreshes my soul. (R)
He guides me in right paths for His name's sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. (R)
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (R)
Surely, goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. (R)
Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.
My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and 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 invitations and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he 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 invited 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. The king 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.""(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, interchangeably used in the gospel accounts, was the core of Jesus' teaching and mission. And Jesus used a variety of parables and images to describe what it is like, and how people should act if they wanted to be in it. He told different parables to different groups of people; but every parable, in one way or another, was about the same topic. Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is not a physical place or location but rather a spiritual realm where God reigns, and where we can experience His goodness, love, joy and peace.
Today's gospel presents the third and final parable that Jesus, during His last days on earth, directed at the Jewish religious leaders who had been questioning His authority to teach, preach and perform miracles. In His first parable of the Two Sons, Jesus told them that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of God before them, Matthew (21:28-32). In the second parable of the Wicked Tenants of the Vineyard, He warned them that the Kingdom of God would be taken away from them, Matthew (21:33-45). This time, in the third parable, Jesus used the image of a "royal wedding feast", Matthew (22:1-14). We must understand the context before we can know the meaning of the parable.
First of all, in the Hebrew Scriptures, the image of a great banquet or wedding feast is often used as a symbol of the Kingdom of God. For instance, in today's first reading, the prophet Isaiah, about 750 years before Christ, speaks of "the Lord hosting a feast for all peoples on a mountain, where He will provide rich food and drinks, and wipe away the tears from every face and bring peace and joy",Isaiah (25:6-10). The mountain, here, refers to "Mount Zion", a hill in Jerusalem outside the walls of the old city, Isaiah (2:1).
In biblical usage, however, "Mount Zion" often means the city of Jerusalem rather than the hill itself. It is the place where Yahweh, the God of Israel, dwells, Isaiah (8:18). It, therefore, refers to the spiritual Jerusalem or spiritual realm where God reigns supreme, and Jesus Christ is King. In this Kingdom, God's authority is recognized, and His Will is obeyed. In other words, the prophet looks forward to a time when people from all nations will come to Jerusalem to worship God and celebrate a feast with Him. This prophecy found its fulfilment in Jesus when He came with the mission to usher in the Kingdom of God with power.
Secondly, in the time of Jesus, weddings were joyous occasions in Jewish society, not only as a great social event, but also a reflection of their understanding and belief in God's betrothal relationship with Israel. Marriage was a reflection of that relationship and therefore a central focus for celebration. The celebration could last for up to a week with lots of food, music, and dance. It was also the custom in Jesus' day for the hosts or the groom to provide wedding attire for their guests.
In today's parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding banquet that a king had prepared for his son, Matthew (22:2-14). Many people had been invited, but when the time for the banquet came and everything was ready, those invited refused to come. So, the king mercifully sent other servants with invitations for the second time; still, some of the invitees made lame excuses to decline the invitation while others mistreated the servants. Eventually, however, the king's patience ran out, and he became furious with those who spurned his kindness. Consequently, he sent his soldiers to destroy them, and at the same time instructed his servants to invite whomever they found on the streets.
In other words, the king extended the invitation to total strangers, both good and bad. Thus, was the wedding hall filled. During the feast, the king noticed a man "who was not wearing a wedding garment" and, asked him how he got in without wedding clothes, but the man had no answer. Then, the king instructed his servants to tie up that person and throw him out of the banquet: out there, he would cry and grind his teeth in disappointment, grief, tears, anger, despair and pain. Jesus then ended the parable with this statement: "Many are invited, but few are chosen", Matthew (22:14).
Through this parable, Jesus looked back to the history of Israel's relationship with God. Ever since Abraham was chosen and promised great blessings because of his obedience and faith, God in His mercy and love wanted Abraham's descendants to inherit His Kingdom on earth, Genesis (12:1-3). He sent messengers to deliver the message that they turned their hearts back to Him after they had fallen away from His grace. Instead, they not only turned away from Him but also worshipped other gods. Although rejected, He mercifully continued to seek them. He warned and disciplined them. Still, they refused to repent. He did not give up on them. He sent prophets to warn of potential punishment. But they tortured and killed God's messengers.
Through the armies of Syria, Babylonia, and Rome, God chastised them. Finally, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to free His people from slavery, sin, and death, but He, too, was rejected and crucified. To this day, Israel is still rebelling against the Messiah. Nevertheless, God did not give up on mankind. He sent His servants to the Gentiles who were prepared to inherit His Kingdom through their faith in Jesus Christ.
What does this parable teach us?
God's invitation to us to attend the heavenly feast is a serious and precious matter. Today, we count among those honoured guests with His invitation in our hand. In Baptism, we have received all we need to take part in the great feast, and we are given ample time to get ready, too. However, the invitation is conditional.
The invitation is open to all, both good and bad alike. Nonetheless, this by no means implies that we can enter God's house as we are. Such occasion requires that we must dress appropriately. If we are like the man who did not bother to wear a wedding garment and if we do not accept God's invitation as He defines it, we'll have no reason to stay at the feast and deserve to be cast into the darkness outside.
Here, the "wedding garment" which we must wear is, of course, a spiritual one. It evidently refers to virtue, or quality, or mark which is a requirement for admission into God's Kingdom. In the Bible, beautiful clothing indicates spiritual character developed by submission to God's Will, Revelation (3:4-5; 19:7-9). Similarly, Paul uses the clothing analogy to describe actions and attitudes a believer must put off and put on. He exhorts Christians to "put on the Lord Jesus" like a garment, Romans (13:14); clothe themselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience", Colossians (3:12); "put off their old nature which belongs to their former manner of life ...and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness", Ephesians (4:20-24).
Clothing, then, represents a Christ-covered life that results in a character consistent with Christ's way of life. It is nothing less than the "holiness" or righteousness of a person. In other words, we must take off filthy clothes such as pride, rebellion, and sinfulness; instead, we must clothe ourselves anew with humility, sincerity, repentance, and obedience. These altogether are what God Himself has provided us in Christ Jesus so that we may enjoy the heavenly feast. Otherwise, we'll be denied admission to the wedding feast in heaven.
God Bless You!