Matthew 22: 1-14
Fr. John Tran
This is the third parable that Jesus is addressing to the chief priests, Pharisees, and leaders of the people. Like the others these past few Sundays, the parallel between the reaction to Jesus of these leaders and the events in the parables is the point. They have received many invitations to believe and embrace Jesus’ way and message and they would not, even though these people should have recognized Jesus for who he is. Again the similarities in the stories and Jesus passion is quite clear. Soon the movement to do away with Jesus will get underway.
Today, Jesus warns that if those who are invited into the Kingdom do not accept, then Jesus will offer invitations to others, perhaps those who are not as worthy, who are not part of Israel. And when those who are gathered from the back streets and byways come in, one of them is not wearing a wedding garment. The invitation is given, and according to custom a garment was provided by the host. And yet, one person did not put it on. The King confronts him amicably and calls him friend, just as Jesus would address Judas in the garden. He says, “My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?” The gospel says, “But he was reduced to silence.” I find this strange. What does it mean?
Is it possible that even after the invitation into the kingdom is accepted, that a person could fail to grasp what was being offered, or what is being asked in return? We can think of our own situation; there have undoubtedly been times when we forget what the invitation is all about; we think that maybe other options are more meaningful, more satisfying.
I remember an account of a small boy was consistently late coming home from school. His parents constantly asked him to come straight home; they worried about him, there was homework to do. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless, he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. His father met him in the living room and said nothing. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father’s full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew up, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.” — Our sin is serious business, especially ignoring God. God’s grace is a costly gift – the Father's Son died to give it to us, and we are to imitate Jesus. We need to discern what God is asking. Jesus explains it today through the parable of the wedding garment. We must not only accept the invitation, but also wear the sign of acceptance.
When Jesus confronts us through Scripture, through our reading, through our prayer, we are sometimes reduced to silence. The gap in our communication with God is too great, and we have nothing to say. Archbishop Bloom points out that in prayer, we sometime fail to have words or contact because we are not being ourselves in prayer or life; we want something from Jesus, and not Jesus himself. We become the Pharisee and not the tax collector who can only say, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”
As long as we are alive on earth, Jesus’ invitation continues to be given to us. The call is always there. We can, like the small boy, recognize the invitation and what is asked for. It is time to overcome our silence and accept the invitation to come into the kingdom. Again, St. Paul reminds us that God will provide all we need. If we can let go and accept the invitation, we are that much closer to make a reality the words of one of today's choices for the communion antiphons, a favorite of mine: “When the Lord appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”