28TH Sunday in Ordinary Time
"Many are invited, but few are chosen" (Mt. 22:1-14).
Today in Matthew's gospel, the parable asks a piercing question. "My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?" Hearing this question asked of the guest randomly invited at the end of this parable makes no sense. Consequently, to expect someone to adorn themselves with a wedding garment was not practical for an individual coming off the streets.
Typically, included in a festival of this magnitude is joy and gratefulness if invited. Unfortunately, the invited aristocracies disregarded the king's first and second invitation to the wedding feast. The refusal by the elite to attend the wedding caused the king's frustration. He then commanded his troops to eliminate those who murdered his servants, who previously delivered the king's bidding.
Twisted in this scenario is that if the king envisioned a great wedding feast, why approach one of the attendees so harshly because of their fashionwear? Indeed, this would provoke a disturbance in the celebration. The king said, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."
Interestingly, the king actualizes the prophet Zephaniah's message. "Silence in the presence of the Lord GOD! for near is the day of the LORD, Yes, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests. On the day of the LORD's sacrifice I will punish the officials and the king's sons, and all who dress in foreign apparel." (Zep. 1:7-8). These prophetic words indicate that the Lord prepared a sacrifice for his consecrated guests. God blessed the guests with righteousness by glorifying them through his love but will punish those in foreign apparel. Why then should the king expect an attendee to have a wedding garment when coming off the streets?
For this reason, the dilemma in this parable is more about an internal change rather than an external one. Remember, this individual was part of the have-not group on the streets, the good, bad, and whatever. They did not possess the middle class to higher-end clothing. In actuality, the king's anger was that the random guest's behavior is no different from the first guests who failed to appreciate the gracious invitation. The king's chosen are to rejoice over being chosen. And we too must rejoice when God invites us to the Kingdom of God.
The prophet Isaiah adds wisdom to this mystery. "I will rejoice heartily in the LORD; my being exults in my God; For he has clothed me with garments of salvation, and wrapped me in a robe of justice" (61:10). Here, we all must rejoice because God has clothed us with garments of salvation through mercy and grace. And once we adorn ourselves with this new apparel, we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. The old clothes of sinful behavior are no longer on our backs. The attendees who rejoiced over their new garments of Justice and salvation were grateful. Many are invited, but few are chosen!
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful" (Col. 3:12-15).
Authored by: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS