MATTHEW 22,1-14 : YEAR
Jesus tells another parable to
the same audience as heard last Sunday’s parable,
the chief priests and Pharisees [21:45]. The comparison
to the kingdom of heaven tells us immediately
that this is no ordinary king.
The main character in the story
acts the same way as in last week’s tale: he sends
servants and they are badly treated: the maltreatment
of the servants reflects what happened to prophets
and to Jesus. The burning of ‘their city’ may
reflect what happened to Jerusalem in 7O AD.
Wedding festivities usually
lasted several days. Male cattle were used for
feasts and sacrifices, since cows were needed
for milk, curds and cheese. The slaughter of such
an animal was a rare and special event. The crossroads
is the best place to come across all travellers:
finding the guests demands effort. Mention of
bad and good reminds us that some unlikely people
have to be invited if the banquet hall is to be
filled, not least those on the margins of society,
in terms of previous parables tax collectors and
sinners, but also Gentiles. Like us.
The man without the wedding
garment seems to be treated unfairly if he has
just been pulled in off the road. However, since
everything was ready, perhaps wedding robes may
be taken as included. It could be a reference
to the baptismal robe (“All baptised in Christ,
you have all clothed yourselves in Christ”, as
St Paul put it [Gal 3:27]), or it may mean simply
that being invited and admitted to the banquet
is not a guarantee of staying there. One must
fully take part. The king coming in to look the
guests over is a scene of judgement.
The notion of wedding feast
does not occur much in religious language in our
day, but for Jews and in the Old Testament it
was the image used to bring home the love of God
for his people, and is extended by St Paul to
include God’s love for humanity. Marriage is the
great image in St Paul of the union between Christ
and his Church, Head and members. Furthermore,
the joys of the kingdom of the Messiah (Christ)
are pictured as a messianic banquet, a theme that
points towards the Blessed Eucharist also.
• The parable of the wedding banquet is about
invitation and response. How important to me
is the idea that God invites me?
• “They collected together everyone they could
find.” How comfortable am I with this picture
of the members of the Church?
• How much attention do I give to my ‘wedding
garment’? Does it say anything to me about my
approach to the Blessed Eucharist?
• A common tooth problem in ancient times was
the grinding, the wearing down, of teeth, with
its effect on the chewing of food later in life:
problems with eating, being cast into darkness,
with one’s hands bound. What do I make of that
as a way of imagining life without Christ?
Thanks to the book of Sirach
(Ecclesiasticus), we have a statement of a cultural
difference between modern readers and those of
the Middle East in biblical times: “Young man,
speak only when necessary, when they have asked
you more than once” [Sir 32:7]. The fondness for
the double invitation permeates Middle Eastern
culture. Double invitations to banquets were common.
During the time between the first and second invitation,
those invited ‘checked out’ the reputation of
the host, the rest of the guest list and sought
information needed to determine whether to attend
or decline when the time came.
--John J. Pilch: Cultural
Dictionary of the Bible (abbreviated)