Today’s Gospel parable is proclaimed to the elders and chief priests, in a formal sense the most religious people of Israel’s society, the ones who had dedicated their lives to study the Old Testament and its laws, rules, and regulations. The parable is about the reign of God. The purpose of the Old Testament was to help people get into and stay in the reign of God. Consequently, the chief priests and elders are Israel’s experts on the reign of God: who is admitted, how be admitted, how to stay in the reign of God, and how to maintain a good relationship with God. Often, we as a local community of faith have that ridged sense of surety and superiority that the chief priests and elders had so long ago. Jesus saw that they were off track. They were on a detour in their popular religiosity and sense of superiority.
Jesus uses the image of a wedding feast to call them and us back to God’s reign. Even the humblest wedding feast is a once in a lifetime event. They are memorable. We love to share and repeat stories about them many years after the fact. Family and friends joined together in joy. Good food, dancing, music, wine, children playing, and friendship. The beauty and joy and shared plenitude of wedding feasts is attractive. They call us to be part of what is happening – to get into the feast. That is God’s desire for all of us.
Jesus points out to the chief priests and scribes that they were invited to the feast but rather than going to the feast, they had set-up a party in their own backyard, separate from God’s wedding feast. They established an elitist relationship with God that made it difficult and impossible for all to access. In the process, they ignored and did violence to God’s messengers.
As Pope Francis points out, when God is rejected, he does not give up on us or abandon us. He sends out more messengers with more invitations. At the end of the parable, messengers are sent out a third time to all, anyone they find in the streets and town – not just close friends and family, elite, high priests, or elders.
Everyone is invited. Everyone is admitted. To maintain our place within the reign of God, we must wear the proper wedding feast attire: baptism and a continuing life of renewal and conversion.
It is very easy to develop an attitude like the elders and high priests of Jesus’ time. It is easy to define ourselves and our local faith community based on rules and regulations. It is easy to believe we are the good ones or the elite. This leads to a “holier than thou” attitude. Our current socio-political environment emphasizes marking distinctions and divisions. Jesus’ experience of the reign of God is an open invitation to the wedding feast. Our mission as a local Church community is to form a beautiful and joyful community that is attractive to all and to support people in their life of conversion to be able to stay within that wedding feast. I believe we also have the mission to be out in the streets like the messengers in the parable bearing the invitation to the most alienated and distanced people in our society.
Final challenge from today’s parable: Are we closed, condemning, and elitist as individuals, families, and community? Are we in God’s wedding feast or some other party that we have set-up? Do we as individuals or family show a joyful, beautiful life with God that is attractive to others? Are we as a local faith community open, inviting to all around us? Have we put in place programs to call others to share our joy and to help them progress in the faith?
Image: “Dinnerware on Table Top” by Mat Brown is free to use under Pexels.com.