The wedding feast parable

In today’s readings, Jesus tells the parable of a wedding banquet, in which a king offers a feast to celebrate the wedding of his son. Twice the invited guests refuse to come, so the king invites others, good and bad alike. The hall is filled with guests, but one guest is present but not prepared, in that he has not bothered to put on a wedding garment, so the king casts him out of the party and into darkness.

This story tell us a lot about who God is. Predominantly, God is always inviting. God never forces anyone to show up to his call, but instead issues invitation after invitation, even sending his servants and intermediaries a second time in order to make the message clear. The invitation is not to a law court, a business deal, or even a religious service, but to a celebration. God wants to celebrate with us, and wants us to rejoice in community with one another. Notably, God could care less about the wealth, status, or even the virtue of those whom God invites (both the good and the bad alike are said to be invited). The question is, do we show up?

Often, we turn down the invitation, because we are too focused on our own agendas. We have our own ideas about what are goals and accomplishments should be, and where our energy ought to be spent. But the point is to listen to what God asks of us and to take up that invitation. How do we know what invitations we receive are from God? God’s invitation comes in the form of consolation, in moments of peace, reconciliation, and joyful celebration of God’s good gifts. We can be the guests, but we can also be the servants of the Lord when we invite others to these good things.

While the passage says that “many are called but few are chosen,” the parable doesn’t really support an elitist or gnostic view, in which God only chooses a few people because of who God is. Clearly, God’s invitation is very wide, hospitable, and embracing as we see the multiple invitations that are sent out. It’s the largest list of wedding guests one can imagine: everyone that can be found! What limits the guests is their own response: do they show up at all, or carry out their own agendas, and when they show up, do they do so wholeheartedly, or only half-heartedly, as though it were some sort of obligation? But God always respects human freedom to say yes or to say no.

In each of our own lives, we also can meditate on where God has lately invited us to greater peace, love, and consolation. Do we act as God’s servants also in issuing the invitation to others to join in the celebration? Do we follow our own goals and ideas or set them aside to be with God? And when we follow God’s will, can we show up wholeheartedly and joyfully, trusting that God really wants us to celebrate and to enjoy good things?