(Adults, here we are again with a difficult parable! For the 6-9 year old, who is beginning an exploration of the moral life, this reflection invites the child to consider the richness and value of the Kingdom of God. We ponder the question–how will we respond to the invitation–only obliquely at this age.)
Once again, in the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of God. He has spent so much time talking about the Kingdom of God; he loves the Kingdom of God and he wants to share his passion for it. Perhaps Jesus gets frustrated when it seems like people do not listen, when it seems like they do not share his passion for the Kingdom. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus shocks people into paying attention. Listen:
“The kingdom of God may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.”
(This is not the shocking part 😉 ) So far, so good.
Sooooooo good, actually! A wedding banquet–a celebration of two people who love each other very much getting married. What can we say a wedding celebration is like? A feast of delicious foods and drinks. People making speeches about their loved ones. Music and singing and dancing. People smiling so much their cheeks hurt, laughing until tears run out of their eyes. Why? All because there is so much love in the room and so much joy. Both love and joy are signs that the Holy Spirit is present.
Who would not come to such a celebration!
The next part is not shocking, but strange.
He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.
Who would not come to a wedding banquet?? A wedding banquet hosted by the king! Imagine the food! The king would have the best food. Imagine the fun! We would get to see inside the castle; we would get to meet the king! Who would not come?
So, the king tries again:
“Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.”
Now the shocking part:
But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them.
What??? If they do not want to come–fine. But why kill the person delivering the invitation?? That is an overreaction.
Do we think the people pay attention to Jesus' parable now? They probably look at each other with raised eyebrows, saying, "Um, that was a weird choice."
Jesus makes absolutely sure they listen now:
The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
One overreaction after another. We imagine the people look at each other and then back at Jesus, asking, "I thought this is a parable about the Kingdom of God?"
Right. Now pay attention.
Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.”
The king has a do-over. We know this because he sends the next invitations into the same city that was just burnt down. (This is how we know this is a parable and not a true story. There would not be any people left there if is was a real city burnt down.) It is like Jesus says to everyone, now that you are paying attention, listen. Who would not come to the wedding banquet?
Notice who the king invites to the wedding banquet.
Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Both good and bad. The king invites them all.
What would it feel like to be a bad person–a person who had made so many bad choices–invited to the king's home? Would such a person expect to be invited to the wedding banquet for the king's son? How would an invitation make that person want to change?
This is what the Kingdom of God is like, Jesus says. All are invited to the banquet. God wants each of us, all of us–the whole collection–to come and celebrate with the best food, the best drink. God wants to surround us all with the abundance of love, the abundance of joy.
When will this be? When will there be no more do-overs necessary? When will all people celebrate together at the banquet, so full of the life and love of God?
Parousia. The time we wait for, the time we work for.
And we have to wonder, can we have a taste of that wedding banquet today? Where can we find the best food, the best drink? Where can we have a taste of the life and love of God now?
Who would not come? 😊