“The Wedding Banquet and the Kingdom of God”
A Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
The Wedding Banquet and the Kingdom of God
(14th Sunday after the Pentecost – Mt. 22:1-14)
When Jesus started preaching, he said just three short sentences, which are the central point of his mission. He said: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand! Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mc. 1:15).
What does Jesus mean by “the time of fulfillment?” It is the time of the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament, that one day God himself will reign over his people. And how are these promises fulfilled? The answer is given by the second sentence: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand”. By the coming of Jesus the Son of God, the Kingdom of God has come and the times are fulfilled. What must be the attitude of the people who are seeing Jesus and listening to his words? This attitude is spelled out in the third sentence: “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. And to explain this teaching Jesus gives a parable, a kind of story, about a marriage feast.
In fact we have here two parables joined together by St. Matthew: a first parable about the invitation to the banquet, and another parable about what kind of garment we need to enter the Kingdom of God.
What is the teaching of the first parable?
- The king who made a marriage banquet for his son represents God the Father.
- The King’s son is Jesus Christ; he is the eternal Word and Son of God, who became man for our salvation. His coming is compared to a wedding banquet, which is the symbol of the union between earth and heaven, between men and God.
- The king’s servants are the Apostles who were sent by Jesus to invite people to listen to Jesus’ message.
- The invited Guests who refused to come are the indifferent Jews who refused to believe in Jesus: “They paid no attention and went off – one to his field and one to his business”.
- When the invited refused, that means the Jews, the King said to his servants: “the wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find”. This is the invitation to the non Jews and to the pagans.
This invitation is not for something boring but for a banquet, for a festivity, for a celebration. Why did people refuse this invitation? They refused, because they were not interested in this invitation, because it does not concern their business.
But God is not the God of business, of possessions, of what we have. He is the God of what we are, of our being. We must make a clear distinction between what we have and what we are: we can be very poor in having, in material possessions, and at the same time very rich in being: in love, in generosity, in sharing and in caring. And Jesus did not come to enrich our possessions but to enrich our being.
That is the spiritual meaning of the second parable, the parable of the man who was not dressed correctly for the wedding feast. So the king asked him: “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding garment?” What kind of garment do we need to enter the Kingdom of God?
- First of all by our baptism we put on as garment Jesus Christ himself, as we sing with St. Paul: “All of you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ”. Through our faith in Christ and our baptism we “put on Christ”, we clothed ourselves with Him; we identified ourselves with Him. Jesus placed on us the robe of righteousness, the robe of His Divinity.
- Then this garment also includes our sorrow for the sins of life, and our reconciliation with our brothers and sisters.
- Finally the wedding garment also contains the jewels of good deeds. Our Christian acts of kindness and mercy shine like diamonds. It is through our virtues that others see the light of Christ. “Not everyone who prays Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of God”, Jesus said, “but who does the will of my Father”. The will of the Father means living like and being united with His Son Our Lord Jesus Christ.
So it is that day by day, week by week, and year by year, as we go through life, we are weaving the garment that we shall wear on Judgment Day.
Every Sunday we are invited to a banquet, the banquet of the Kingdom of God, the Eucharistic meal, in which we are united in a sacramental way to the risen Christ, for our personal sanctification and the building of the Church. That is why we start our Liturgy by saying: “blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. And at the great entrance with the gifts, the priest says: “May God remember you all in his Kingdom”. And during the Holy Communion we chant: “remember me, O Lord, in your Kingdom.”
We can find many excuses not to come to this banquet. But if we really love the Bride, and if we really love one another, all these excuses become nonsense. When the priest invites the people to the Communion, he says: “Approach with fear of God, with faith and with love”. We come to the Eucharistic banquet full of reverence, faith and love. So that, after the Holy Communion, we can sing with joy and thankfulness: “Let our mouth be filled with your praise, O Lord, for you have counted us worthy to share your holy immortal and spotless mysteries. Keep us in sanctification that we may sing your glory meditating on your holiness all the day. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia!”