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Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year (15th October 2017)

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: ‘The kingdom of heaven 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, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding”.

So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth”. For many are called, but few are chosen.’

YOU ARE INVITED TO THE PARTY



Recently I had an invitation to a wedding. The card went something like this: Mr & Mrs X request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their son to Miss Y and afterwards at the wedding reception. Dress elegant. R.S.V.P. So runs a standard invitation. So, what is to be said of the unusual account related to us by Matthew, the Evangelist (Matthew 22:1-14).

In today’s Gospel we have two parables: the parable of the wedding feast and the parable of the wedding garment. A king invites guests to the wedding feast of his son. The king is the figure of God, while the great feast was a popular Jewish image for the joy of the life to come – as we heard from today’s first reading, ‘On this mountain the Lord of hosts will prepare for all people a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines’. The image of God is that of a generous host who knows how to throw a good party.

The prophets often saw that relationship as a marriage. The failure to turn up for the feast and to opper limp excuses was bad manners. To refuse an invitation to a royal wedding was far more serious. As Matthew saw it, the consequences of the refusal were terrible. The armies sent by the king are the Roman armies which besieged and captured Jerusalem in AD 70, demolishing the Temple and burning the city. This recalls the rejection of God’s messengers by Israel throughout its history – a coded story or allegory of the Messiah’s mission to Jews and its continuation by his followers to Gentiles (non-Jews). The result was that the invitation of God went out to those on the highways and the byways who never expected an invitation into the kingdom.

The parable reminds us that the invitaion of God is to a feast as joyous as a wedding feast. To think of Christianity as a gloomy giving up of everything which brings laughter and sunshine is to mistake its nature. It is joy to which Christians are invited; and it is this joy they miss if they refuse the invitation. The tragedy of life is that it is so often second bests which shut out the bests – things that are good in themselves shut out the things that are supreme. We can be so busy making a living, that we fail to make a life. If we refuse the invitation of Christ, someday our greatest pain will lie, not in the things we endure, but in the realisation of the precious things we have missed.

Kevin Lyon
Archdeacon of Glendalough


 


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