Twenty-eighth Sunday of the Year: Isaiah 25:6-10; Philippians 4: 12-14 & 19-20; Matthew 22: 1-14
The new translation of the Roman Missal, in its invitation to Holy Communion, blesses those who are called to the supper of the Lamb. The words echo those of the Book of Revelation. Here, at the end of time, the faithful are blessed as those who have been invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb. Each and every Communion, therefore, reaches to the end of time, praying that we might be counted among those invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Throughout the scriptures and Jewish tradition the banquet was developed as an image of salvation. The abundance of food came to express the richness of God’s blessing. The fellowship of those gathered for the banquet expressed our longing for an abiding communion with the Lord. Such was the promise proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah. “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all people a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of food, rich and juicy.”
These words addressed the tragedies that threaten to crush faith in every generation. Israel, in Isaiah’s words, had become a people who walked in darkness. A violent society, in which death had become a daily threat. A divided society in which the poor could expect little redress. Isaiah’s promised banquet summoned all peoples to entrust themselves to a future that God himself would bring about.
“The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek; he will take away the shame of his people everywhere on earth.”
The parable of the king’s wedding feast, while drawing on this long tradition, placed particular emphasis on the manner in which we respond to the grace of God. The parable was addressed immediately to the chief priest and elders of the people, the custodians of God’s promise to his people. “The kingdom of God 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.”
Israel’s long history was understood as an invitation to salvation, to the rich banquet prepared by the Lord. In the parable those who had been privileged with an invitation were too busy to come, ultimately rejecting and killing the servants bearing the invitation.
Our baptism, and each celebration of the Eucharist, is an invitation not only to acknowledge the Lord, but to live in his ways. Like those addressed in the parable, we are capable of leading lives so busy as to exclude any realistic time given to the Lord. We can go further, positively rejecting his ways, becoming like those in the parable who seized and maltreated the king’s servants. It is in the details of daily life that we accept or reject the invitation of grace.
Despite the unworthiness that makes us, like the centurion who approached Jesus, unworthy that the Lord should enter under our roof, the Eucharist invites us into communion with the Lord. The fate of the guest who was found without a wedding garment is a powerful reminder that the Lord’s invitation demands a response. The wedding garment is the humility and repentance with which we live our lives in God’s presence. Only when we consciously entrust our sinfulness to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, only when we acknowledge the graciousness of his invitation, can we hope to be blessed as those called to the supper of the Lamb.