Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22: 1-14) is the parable of the wedding banquet. Addressed to the religious leaders of his day, Jesus notes how those invited to the banquet find excuses to decline the offer and some even kill the messengers. The king then invites those at the crossroads – the poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind, according to Luke 14:21. Matthew puts it bluntly: the servants gather in all the people they found, the bad and the good.
There is much in this parable that gives hope to those on the outside, to those who are not part of the religious establishment.
But there is at least one troubling element in the parable.
The king sees a man without a wedding garment. When questioned, the man says nothing. The king then throws him out of the party.
The late Father John Kavanaugh, S.J., has a marvelous commentary on this, inspired by C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. You can find it here on the St. Louis University liturgy site.
But, as I prayed over the readings this morning, I had a slightly different take on the man without the wedding garment.
Maybe he was there just for the food. It didn’t matter to him that this was a celebration of love, a celebration of the marriage of the king’s son. It was just a chance to fill his gut.
He was not very different from the invited guests who refused to come because they were involved in their farms and businesses. They too didn’t want to share in the joy of the king. They only thought about their own well-being.
The man without a wedding garment was thrown outside because he was really not a part of the celebration. He had not put on the festive garment.
And what is that garment?
The commentator in Diario Bíblico suggests that “We cannot forget that the indispensable garment for the Reign [of God] is charity. One cannot live the Christian life without love, without charity.”
The banquet invitation calls us out of ourselves to share the joy of the Reign of God – and to do what God does, as suggested in the first reading from Isaiah 25: 6-10a:
The Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines…. he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples… he will destroy death forever.
The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face; the humiliation of his people he will remove from the whole earth…
The Lord promises a grand banquet; we are called to put on the wedding garment of joy and love – sharing in the Lord’s joy and sharing that joy with others, especially the outcasts of the earth.