The Parable of the Great Supper, Cicely Mary Barker 1934, St. George’s Church, Waddon, UK.
[The King said,] Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ Matthew 22:9.
Words and phrases highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.
This story, or parable, of Jesus contains many elements of Jewish history and hopes. For centuries they had awaited the invitation to the banquet, the celebration of the triumph of the Chosen People of God over the unbelievers. Now here was the Messiah, fulfilling the prophecies as stated in Scripture, yet those who believed were a fraction of the Hebrew population. The majority of them refused to believe that this peaceful, loving, gentle man was the promised Messiah of strength and conquest. They refused to “come to the banquet” inaugurating the reign of the Messiah, the binding of the people intimately with God through what was to become the Last Supper and today seen in the Mass. Unwilling to abandon the Messiah and his message, the King, whom we can read as God the Father, expanded the invitation from the Chosen People to the whole world, and, in the parable, prophesying that those unbelievers who had even killed his messengers would be cast down, and their city burned to the ground, which can be taken as a prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Emperor Titus in response to a rebellion against Rome in AD 70.
Arch of Titus AD81, Spoil from the Sack of Jerusalem, Rome, Italy.
Hence everyone was now invited to the banquet, and in they came, “bad and good alike”. It seems that this expanded invitation still included the Hebrews, who would be considered the “good”, and the Gentiles, the “bad”. In other words, no-one was excluded, even then. Now consider. If any of us were to receive an invitation to a wedding feast or something similar, we would make an effort to be presetable, to put on our “Sunday Best” as it were. It would be necessary to appear presentable, otherwise it would constitute an insult to the host; we would have to make an effort to justify, as it were, our presence, and remember that another person’s Sunday Best might not be ours – the Lord will know the truth of the matter. On the other hand, to just wander in unprepared, lured by the promise of a free grand dinner, would be an insult, and that is how it was treated by the king when one such did enter. Worse, that malefactor, unable to offer any explanation, is bound hand and foot and “cast… into the darkness outside”. There is no such thing as a free meal! Remember that a wedding banquet is a beginning, not an ending. In a special sense, it is the wedding of each one of us to the Lord as our Savior, the one who will walk with us through life, giving guidance and strength, until the day we are called to the ultimate eternal banquet. Our wedding garment will be that which we have created through our life, attempting at all times to be Christ to the world, the vocation given us at our baptism. We were dressed up that that event, a prefiguring of the heavenly banquet we hope for when called from this world. Well, each Sunday Mass should be the source and sustenance of that life work as we edge towards that moment when the king welcomes us into the eternal feast. With trust in the Lord, obedience to his guidance and determination to fulfill it, we will be accepted, and enter into eternal happiness.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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