10-15-2017 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct 16, 2017
28th Sunday in OT / A / 2017
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
Today’s parable is one of the strangest in the Gospels—even a little shocking, like last week’s parable of the tenants who kill the Son hoping to get his inheritance. This week—in brief— we have a king hosting a wedding banquet for his Son. The invitees don’t come, and in his anger, the king kills them. Then he invites everyone to the banquet, but one does not have a wedding garment, and he throws him into Gehenna!
So what are we to make of this—that God is a tyrant, a capricious, moody being? Not so fast. Let’s look a little more in detail.
But first a general comment to help us understand this parable and other parables. The great American Catholic author, Flannery O’Connor, was once asked why her stories are so macabre, violent, and unsavory. O’Connor’s response: "to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures."
In other words, to those of us whose eyes and ears have been dulled and blunted by our secular culture, where nothing shocks us—where people have lost a sense of God—one has to "shock" us into attention. You "shout" or "draw large." And that’s what the parables do: they shout and draw large and exaggerate to catch our attention.
Think of that in our parable today. A king gives a wedding banquet for his son. The "King" is God the Father, and the "Son" is Jesus—and we are the invited guests, those invited to share the intimacy of the Father and the Son.
Now think about the invitation given to us. Not just from anyone. A king! You have been invited to a royal wedding, with "a feast of rich food and choice wines" (Isaiah). It would be like an invitation from the president to join him and the first lady at the White House for a wedding of his son or daughter. Would you look at your calendar to see if you could go, or perhaps just excuse yourself? No, of course not! You would jump at the opportunity!
But in our parable, some refuse to come, some ignore the invitation, others walk away, to their farm or business. And some crazy ones even killed the servants who brought the invitations!
Like last week, the parable tells the story of the prophets who spoke God’s invitation but were rejected or killed by the people. So the invitation is taken away from them and they are severely punished—and their city is destroyed (a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70). The words and images of the parable are meant to wake us up—don’t ignore God’s invitation! And if you ignore it, or refuse it, calamity will follow.
But God doesn’t give up. The invitation then goes out to everyone! The abundance of God just keeps giving and giving and giving, despite our lack of response. The hall is now full for the wedding feast—with the "bad and good alike."
But then another odd thing happens. When the king enters the hall to greet the guests, he sees one man "not dressed in a wedding garment," and has him thrown out "into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth"—Gehenna.
We don’t want to think literally here . . . we want to think theologically.
So what’s it about? The final line explains it: "Many are invited, but few are chosen."
All of us receive the invitation to intimacy with God—God desires that all be saved—but more is required to enter the Kingdom than an invitation. We must respond properly to the invitation, through good works and conversion. That is our wedding garment—to arrive in the Kingdom clothed with the works of mercy, with the Gospel.
So, the invitation is given to us. How will we respond?