Once more Jesus spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.’”
Today’s Gospel reading and last Sunday’s have much in common. Both are parables but each with its own distinctive image. For the last Sunday, it was the vineyard, and today is the wedding banquet. The time and place where Jesus told the two parables was the last stage of his ministry in Jerusalem. He was surrounded by the chief priests and elders of the Pharisees, who were the leaders of the Jews under Roman rule. We can sense a high tension among in both Sunday’s Gospel readings. On the one hand, Jesus appealed to the Jews to repent; on the other hand, the chief priests and elders of the Pharisees rejected his appeal and decided to hand him over to the Romans to kill him. The high tension is also with us today. Take a moment and look at our lives, it is not hard to find that we were also there before in our crisis moments, where we were torn between Jesus’ teaching and the blindness and hardness of our hearts. Perhaps, such high tension is with us in this very moment!
Our blindness and hardness of hearts could lead us to the road of ruin in our spiritual lives, in family or community life, in personal relationship, in our career and work, and our body and mental health. It is because our blindness and hardness of hearts refuse to heed any advice and to read any danger signs. Why we become blind and hard in our hearts? It is because we refuse to acknowledge our inordinate attachments. Without acknowledging such inordinate attachments, we become blind. Since we are blind, our hearts are hard. Thus, we refuse repentance.
Going to the text of today’s Gospel reading, the beginning of the parable is a king inviting people to come to his son’s wedding banquet. The occasion is a very special feast. Wedding symbolized the harmonization of two separate families. And a wedding banquet is to celebrate the harmony. It is a very powerful image of harmony and “oneness”. Using this image, Jesus invites us all to become one in him. It reminds us how we are divided within families and communities, between nations and peoples, among Christian churches. Further, it reminds us how we divided within our own self: between soul and body, ideal and reality, secular values and Christian values, and different choices to be made.
The second part of the parable, i.e. verses 11 to 13, is about the wedding garment. The guest invited comes to the royal feast in inappropriate dress code. Nowadays, observing proper dress code might seem to be a trivial matter. But it reveals our attitude to the occasion and our identity. We take part in an occasion with the dress appropriate to it meaning that we want to be part of the occasion, in addition to show our respect to the host. Inappropriate dress signifies our refusal to be part of the occasion though we are physical attending at that occasion. Today, how we dress in attending Mass? Do we observe to the dress code displayed at the door of the church when go inside to the church? How often do we see, or sometimes even we, men wearing shorts and women wearing low cut dress at Mass? What do you thing they or we try to say to God in such dress when attending the Eucharist?
The last part of the parable, verse 14, is the conclusion that warns us that though we are called but not all of us are chosen. How can we be called and Chosen? The answer is in the earlier parts of the parable. That is we respond to God’s calling not immediately but also with the appropriate attitude and deeds. Amen.