Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - October 11, 2020
On the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year, Matthew continues to present Jesus’ response to the religious leaders who challenge his authority after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the Temple. Jesus offers another parable about the Kingdom of God: this time, the parable of the wedding feast that challenges us to reflect on the ways we respond to God’s call. Like last week’s Gospel parable about the wicked tenants, the various participants in today’s parable represent the major actors in salvation history, with the king representing God and the wedding feast for his son representing the messianic banquet. The prophets of old and the Christian missionaries are God’s invitation instruments, and they all seem to meet with the same defiant refusal to cooperate and respond to the invitation. While severe judgment is rendered, that is not the end, because the invitation is offered to others, “bad and good alike.”
The feast to which we are invited is more than a meal, as the prophet Isaiah tells us in today’s First Reading. Isaiah gives a vivid description not just of “rich food and pure, choice wines,” but a place and moment where mourning and death cease, tears are wiped away, shame is dispelled, and all “behold our God, to whom we looked to save us.” This is what “the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples.”
As Matthew wrote the Gospel, it had become quite clear that Jesus’ initial invitation to the children of Israel had expanded to include the Gentiles. The Gospel concludes with the great missionary mandate of Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all Jesus had commanded. Over the centuries, disciples have continued the mission, and today, we believe that God continues to call and invite all, “the bad and good alike,” to participate in the Kingdom.
The parable of the wedding feast is about our response to God’s call. How are we responding to God’s call or invitation as it comes to us in the teaching of His Son? The parable reminds us that, while accepting the invitation is a good first step, we need to be aware of the dangers of indifference or distractions that keep us from following through on our response. Personal pursuits and even positive, worthwhile affairs can prevent us from letting God’s word take root in our lives (as we heard in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) back in July). Just showing up at the feast is not enough – as we learn at the end of today’s parable.
The proper response is to wear the right garment and to present ourselves in proper fashion. I believe that we have been given not only the invitation but also the proper attire for God’s Kingdom by virtue of our baptism – that moment when we put on the new creation, and when we put on Christ and received the gifts of the Holy Spirit – all that we need to fully participate in the Kingdom. But we cannot just put that “garment” in storage or in a closet for some time in the future. God calls us every day and at every moment, and we continue to respond to God’s invitation by living in Christ, by putting the gifts of the Spirit to good use, by conforming our lives more and more to the gospel, and by living in accordance with God’s will as manifested in Jesus’ teachings.
Lastly, and very importantly, we want to remember the way our Lord invites us to partake in the richness of the Eucharist. Here is where the Lord gives us the best and choicest food – Himself! The Eucharist we celebrate is the sacrament of ongoing Christian life and discipleship; it points toward the fullness of life in God’s Kingdom, and it shapes our identity by enabling us to respond actively to God’s call in Christ and live lives of discipleship that share God’s invitation with all we meet.