The image used by Jesus in today’s Parable is close to the Filipino heart – a wedding party! Any great occasion in fact can be a reason for a party, from Baptisms, to anniversaries, there is a party. Even a wake for the dead is a party, though in a more solemn mode.
In the Scripture, and liturgy, the symbolism of a party celebration connotes deeper meaning, expressing what God has to offer to the human race – Thus, the Isaiah reading describes in rich imagery what is commonly referred to as the eschatological or end – time meal.
In his description of this meal Isaiah is trying to bring home to the people the exquisite joy and love of that final day when they would be united with the Lord forever. A common life and common love are symbolized. “This is the Lord for whom we looked; Let us rejoice and be glad.”
The banquet of which Jesus speaks in the Gospel is the same, an eschatological meal. But here we are told more about the participants. They will not be simply those you might expect on a royal wedding list. They will be all who want to come, those who sincerely search for the Lord. Our daily Eucharist is a holy meal where we feast on the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a sacred meal of fellowship, forgiveness and love.
The parable is heavily allegorical (symbolic story). As re-interpreted by Matthew in terms of Salvation history, the lesson is this: Just as distinguished guests, who refused to attend a royal banquet, were replaced by people found at random, one of whom was afterwards excluded for lack of appropriate attire, so also the Jews, having refused the Gospel, will be replaced in the banquet of the Kingdom of God by the gentiles, some of whom will be excluded for lack of good deeds, symbolized by the wedding garment. (Nil Guillemette, Parables of Today)
It is interesting why in the parable, the invitation is turned down, not just once, but several times. Is this also a warning for us? Israel, God’s chosen one, was unable to see the great love that God is offering for his people. How many times, indeed, did we refuse to acknowledge God’s invitation to a love-relationship. His generosity, forgiveness and love take on divine proportions. But God too, in his goodness, reacts to injustice with genuine indignation. God by his very nature becomes angry especially at open scorn and irresponsibility. In today’s world, for example, this is shown in any form of greed in extracting natural resources form mother earth to the extent that our planet is destroyed, leaving no resources for the next generation. (“Generational justice”) “The Planet is being exhausted in the excessive exploitation of natural resources. Not only is the functioning of the human community out of alignment with the functioning of the Planet, but also the human community has become a predator draining the life of its host.” (Thomas Berry)
Perhaps we restrict the meaning in ways Jesus did not intend if we think of the banquet that God offers as only beyond death and outside history. Jesus, as we know from his many reference to the bounty of nature, and interdependence of creatures (web of life), saw all creation as the joyful hospitality of God, inviting everyone to feast of the beauty of God’s hospitality, enabling us to live in an eco-friendly hospitable world!
And the way we respond to ultimate happiness, the consummation God offers, the “Heavenly Feast” is expressed in terms of the lives we live here and how. Thus the whole world and all its resources and opportunities is a divine hospitality, as a feast, a party, even a wedding feast of love of God!
We must act on this challenge to be responsible (Response–able) to honor God in all the glory of a created world.
Ironically, when it rains, it pours; if it floods, how can we have a party? Effect of Climate change?