28th Sunday of Ordinary Time A
October 9, 2017 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Introduction: Today’s image offered to us is that of a banquet or wedding feast. Last Sunday we were offered the image of the vineyard. We can think of ourselves as the vineyard that the Lord is cultivating and ask what fruits we are bringing forth and how much we produce sour grapes. But this Sunday the first reading offers us a picture of a banquet too good to be true. The Gospel offers us a wedding banquet that seems almost too bad to be true. These readings had meaning in the time of Isaiah and the time of Jesus but we must seek their meaning for our time.
The image of the banquet in the first reading is an image of life in Heaven. The best of everything in abundance, God wiping away tears. God providing for all peoples a feast. That’s the promise of what is awaiting us after this life in this valley of darkness or valley of tears. The banquet in the Gospel clearly has a dark side to it.
Daniel Berrigan writes about today’s Gospel parable: “’The realm of heaven may be compared to a king¼’Compared in two ways: the way of likeness and of contrast.” He cautions us to not miss the storyteller for the story. We have the Christ of “love your enemies” telling about a king who takes revenge on his enemies. This king, in fact, recalls the most savage of Hebrew and Gentile rulers.
We have the king seeing the man without the wedding garment and ordering the attendants to bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. It is difficult to see this as a description of Jesus. From Jesus life and teaching we have to amend the story. Our Host enters the banquet hall to approve, rejoice, include, welcome. All—and sundry are included. Ourselves. Nothing of the truculent, blind striking out of the king against a poor, speechless, anonymous guest. Just as gently but firmly, we amend the story’s conclusion. In its original form, the words that sum up the parable belong to the king who judged so harshly, who confused his status of host with his black mood of condemnation and retaliation. It is the king who says to himself in dour satisfaction, invulnerable and vengeful: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” These are not the words of Jesus; they are the words of the worldly host and warrior, the one given to eviction and slaughter. There is a far different summing up, according to the heart of Jesus: To the banquet, to life, to love. And all are called, all are chosen.
Other aspects of the parable offer us further reflection. Invitations are offered and refused. We notice a progression in the response of those rejecting the invitation: first indifference, then anger, then violence, which finally leads to their destruction. This progression can also be part of our lives.
Good and bad are invited. The evil and the virtuous are intermingled, juxtaposed; lift glasses together, banter, ponder, and feast. And more: good and evil coexist within each of us.
How do we receive invitations from God? We don’t hear a voice speaking to us saying to do this or that. No, invitations from God come to us in a variety of forms in our daily life. Sometimes it is the voice of a family member or friend. Don’t do that. Think about what you are doing. Do this. Sometimes it is our own conscience that is the voice of God. Sometimes it is God speaking through our body. Do I have a pain in the neck? Is my back sore? Do I constantly have indigestion? Am I living with head aches? What is my pain in the neck? What tension am I holding? What am I not dealing with, denying or ignoring? Our body can be the voice of God talking to us as well.
The last part of the parable about the man without the wedding garment is a little curious. Some explain that wedding garments were provided and offered to people as they entered. If so it could be interpreted that this man came and seemed to be saying, take me as I am. When confronted he couldn’t say anything. For this he was cast out. He then can be seen as a figure of those who want to live life in their own way. These people would say to God, This is what I want to do. I want what I want when I want it. That attitude risks our being cast out.