(Another warning this week! The parable in the Gospel is another difficult one. Read it through first, or ask someone to read it to you. It is good to hear the Word of God.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear another parable about the Kingdom of God. In this parable we get a brief glimpse of what the Kingdom of God will be like in all its fullness. We also get a dose of the reality we live in.
Jesus begins with the vision,
“The kingdom of God may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.”
We know, of course, that a wedding banquet celebrates love. When two people marry–two people who love each other very much–their family and friends take time apart from their regular lives to celebrate. They dress in their finest clothes and come. Usually, the family holds a dinner and people dance. This is how we celebrate in joy. We can imagine that the wedding banquet hosted by the king for his son would be the most lavish feast–a beautiful dining room decorated in silver and gold, with servants bringing no shortage of food, course after course of rich and delicious dishes. A band would play music softly during dinner, and then, never seeming to tire, would play lively tunes when the guests move to the ballroom for dancing. Guests would sing and dance into the wee hours of the night enjoying an evening more special than any other, wishing the joy could go on forever.
The kingdom of God, in all its fullness, is like this.
Then Jesus shares the reality:
He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “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.”
We know that the Kingdom of God is not yet complete. God invites, but not everyone responds. Why do they not? When we consider the vision of the Kingdom, we find it hard to understand why everyone does not work enthusiastically to build it. But Jesus knows why:
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.
Some people make light of the Kingdom of God. They laugh at religion. They think we are odd because we go to church.
Some people, if they consider God at all, would tell us that religion is good, praying is good. They are happy for us that we like to pray, and maybe they will try it sometime. But they are just so busy–busy with work, busy with sports, busy with, well, just about anything else.
And some people are really angry. They have been hurt in life and they are angry with God. They are in pain, and religion makes them furious.
Jesus, looking at the people gathered to listen to his parable, sees all these people.
People like us, who mock religion, who cannot be bothered to pray, who are hurt and angry at God.
And he says STOP.
The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Wake up, Jesus says, this is not funny. You need to care.
Pay attention, he says, this is the most important thing ever. You need to care.
I know you are angry, he says, and you have a God who cares deeply about you and your pain.
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.” 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.
Who is invited to the wedding banquet? Everyone. Those who make light, those who are too busy, those who are angry and in pain. Those of us who care deeply and love God and try to build the Kingdom. All are invited.
But the Kingdom is not yet complete. Jesus knows this reality.
‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless.
One man at the feast is not dressed appropriately. It cannot be that he is too poor to buy something appropriate, because the king's servants would have given him something to wear. He was invited after all. It is thought that in ancient times, the king would actually send a wedding robe to each of the guests. And yet this person, although accepting the invitation to the feast, has snuck in without dressing for the occasion.
What does this tell us?
What is he saying by his choice to come but not to wear the robe? What does he think about the king? We notice that the king calls him "friend." We have to wonder how much relationship with the king means to the man. He says nothing. The king asks him a question, and he says nothing in response. He does not answer; he does not engage in relationship. It seems he does not know the value of the Kingdom of God. He has lost sight of the vision.
Who could this person be like? Who is given everything needed to enter the Kingdom of God, but shows up not wearing the robe? What is this robe anyway? Do we have Kingdom of God clothing?
We know that when we are baptized, we wear a garment that is the colour of pure light. We are called by name–we are invited–and these words are spoken:
...you have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ. May this white garment be a sign to you of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring it unstained into eternal life.
The white garment is a sign. Obviously, the actual robe we wore at our Baptism is too small for us to wear now, but it is still a sign, just as the wedding robe in the parable is a sign. It is a sign of our dignity that God gives us. We are important; we have been invited.
We are asked to bring it unstained into the Risen life of Christ. How might our Kingdom of God clothing become stained? There are times when we have not cared, there are times when we have failed to build the kingdom, there are times even when we have acted to tear it down. We know this. So what can we do?
What do we do if our Kingdom clothing is stained or torn, or if we cannot even remember what it looks like? We do not want to be outside of the Kingdom. We do not want to be outside, looking in on the love and joy.
We go to the sacrament of Reconciliation. We say we are sorry, and we are forgiven. Because God wants us all. We are all invited, and God is just dying to rejoice with us.