“You are invited to a wedding banquet”
A Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
You are invited to a wedding banquet
(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).
To speak about heaven is very difficult, because it is speaking about things we cannot experience in our daily life. So Jesus, in teaching His listeners about heaven, told them a story, a parable, about a marriage feast.
What is the meaning of this story? What did Jesus want to teach by it?
- The king who made a marriage banquet for his son represents God the Creator of heaven and earth, 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. This mystery of the Word and Son of God becoming man we call “The mystery of the Incarnation”. And this mystery is itself the marriage banquet to which God sent his messengers to invite people. The relationship between God and his people was compared in the Old Testament for the relationship of bride and groom in a marriage. In the New Testament, this comparison is used to the relationship between Jesus Christ and his Church, as we read in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians: “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her with water and words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless ” (5:25-26).
- The king’s servants are the Prophets in the Old Testament, the Apostles in the New Testament, and now they are the ordained ministers in the Church.
- The invited Guests who refused to come are all the ungrateful people of the Old Testament who refused to listen to the Prophets, and the indifferent people of the New Testament and of the Church who are so busy with their business that they do not care about God’s invitation.
This invitation is not for something boring but for a banquet, for a festivity, for a celebration. What is the meaning of this banquet? It means a new relation between human beings and God through his Son, Jesus Christ. So the people who refused the invitation 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, but 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. And that is the meaning of his teaching: “Do not be anxious, saying ‘what shall we eat?’, or ‘what shall we drink?’ or ‘what shall we wear?’ For the unbelievers seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his Kingdom and his way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt. 6:31-33).
That is the spiritual meaning of the man who was not dressed correctly for the wedding feast. 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, and we became with Him and through Him children of God. That is the meaning of the two first sentences of the first preaching of Jesus: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” When we put on Christ, we are already in the time of fulfillment; we are in the Kingdom of God .
- Then this garment also includes our sorrow for the sins of life, and our reconciliation with our brothers and sisters. How difficult it is to sincerely repent for our wrongs. But they are there – bare wounds on our souls, and bare wounds in the Body of Christ. We can heal them, by pouring on them the holy blood of Christ. And that is the meaning of the third sentence of the first preaching of Jesus: “Repent and believe in the Gospel”.
- 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. And we must work while it is day, Jesus said, for “the night comes when nobody can work”. That night is the night of death.
The Gospel story ends with the words of our Savior: “For many are called, but few are chosen”. The call of Christ for faith, for repentance, for Christian living and loving, goes on and on. We are all among the called, and remember: we are invited to a marriage banquet, the banquet of the marriage of the Son of God with his Church that means with us. God grant that we might also be among the chosen.
Every Sunday we are invited to a banquet, the banquet of 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. This sacrament strengthens the unity of the Church, according to the words of St. Paul : “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). 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!”