28 Sunday of the Year A
Is 25:6-10; Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt 22:1-14
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle A, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2007 and republished in Viet Nam 2010. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
Each covenant between God and His people in the Old Testament is understood and interpreted according to the wedding image. The covenant between God and his people in the Old Testament paralleled the covenant between Christ and the Church in the New Testament. In the covenant between God and his chosen people, God refers to himself as the groom, and to his people as the bride. The nuptial image was used by Saint Paul and Saint John to compare a relationship between Christ, considered to be the groom and the Church as the bride (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:22; Apoc. 19:7-9; 21:2; 22:17).
The parable of the wedding banquet records different responses to the invitation. To invite somebody to the wedding is to expect him/her to attend the banquet. However, the guests invited to the wedding feast in today’s gospel, first declined the invitation. The second time, the king sent his servants to implore them to come to the banquet, saying to them: Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast (Mt 22:4).
The wedding feast relates to another heavenly feast, which Isaiah envisioned: On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples, a feast of rich food and choice wines (Is 25:6). However, the invited guests still refused to attend. They used many excuses for their absence. Worse off, they abused, beaten or killed the king’s servants. When the invited guests declined the invitation, the king threw the party open to everyone to attend. However, when the king went in to see the guests, he caught sight of one, not properly dressed and ordered him to be cast into the darkness outside.
We might think that the king was unreasonable and unrealistic. Did the king demand too much here? How could he expect a guest, who was just invited from the streets to dress properly for the wedding? However, according to the Jewish custom at that time, sometimes the groom family provided fabrics to the guests so that they could make their own wedding garments. The host family also provided wedding garments, hanging at the entrance for the guests to wear
If we do not know about this tradition, we might think the king was unreasonable, demanding too much. However, according to most biblical scholars, then perhaps this piece of story about the guest who did not wear his wedding garment was the conclusion of another story, incorporated by Saint Matthew into the parable of the wedding banquet.
Therefore, when it is read as one story, it sounds sudden and difficult to understand. Anyway, the parable of the wedding banquet shows when the guest wanted to attend, he had to follow the wedding tradition, and the tradition was almost considered as a law. Thus, anyone who refused to wear the wedding dress meant he showed contempt for the host. Therefore, when he was questioned why he did not wear the wedding dress, he kept silent, because he could not find any excuse.
According to the parable, the wedding feast was referred to the heavenly banquet; the king referred to God; the king’s son referred to the Messiah; servants referred to the prophets and apostles; guests referred to the chosen people in the Old Testament; city burned referred to Jerusalem destroyed in the year seventy.
As in the parable of the tenants, the vineyard will be given to other tenants, and then in the parable of the wedding feast, other guests in the street such as gentiles and sinners will be invited to the wedding feast. The wedding dress understood in a figurative sense means the invited guests have to wear a proper dress for the occasion. The invited guests must show some sign that they accept the invitation seriously.
The wedding feast was given priority to the chosen people in the Old Testament. However, they did not respond to God’s invitation through his prophets. John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet came calling the people to repentance to prepare the way for the Messiah. However, many of them were indifferent, not responding. When the Messiah came, they rejected Him. When they rejected him, the invitation was sent to all kinds of people. The invitation to attend the heavenly banquet has been sent to millions and millions of people, including us, since the foundation of the Church in different circumstances and times. Today we must ask ourselves this question. How have we been responding to God’s invitation?
A prayer asking to partake in the heavenly banquet:
O Lord our God, we thank you
for paying attention to our gentile ancestors.
Through the sacrament of Baptism, you invited
our ancestors to partake in the heavenly banquet of your Son.
As a result, I inherited my ancestors’ blessings.
Grant that I may be faithful to my baptismal faith
as to partake in the heavenly banquet. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong