Wedding banquets are usually joyous occasions. Lots of preparation goes into the planning of a wedding. One important detail is the guest list. The invitations must be correct or people might get their feelings hurt if they are left out.
In the story that Jesus told, the opposite is true. The one who is offended is the king. He had gone “all out” to prepare a first class banquet and nobody came! How would we feel? Have you ever given a party and nobody came? That has got to be the ultimate insult. The king must have been furious since the ones he thought were his friends, had better things to do. Some of those invited killed the messengers who took the invitation. The king was so enraged that he destroyed the murderers and burned their city. But that’s not the end of the story. The king decided to invite everybody off the street. That’s where we come in. That’s what “Catholic” means: here comes everybody. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Sort of like the street dances that were in style in Falfurrias when I was a child. Usually held on the side of the old courthouse. Everybody was invited. Everybody had a good time. Children played on the grass while the adults “whapngoed” their way in circles. The evening was an opportunity to meet people, share the local gossip, and dance. No membership was required. Even the dogs got in. A politician or two might have gotten up to say a few words, but that didn’t matter because no one was listening. Folks came to enjoy a “freebie”.
“Freebie” is an appropriate title for the story about the wedding feast. Given the price of beef these days, free steaks sound pretty appealing. A typical banquet includes the beverages, the entertainment, the party atmosphere. However, we have to look beyond the literal meaning of the Gospel. Without a doubt Jesus is talking about the heavenly Banquet but He is also speaking about the here and now. Remember that eternity begins when we are conceived and never ends. Our life on earth is a preview of everlasting life—just like Holy Mass is a preview of the heavenly Banquet. At the Altar we are already seated at the Banquet of life that will never end. Everyone is invited. Notice how much energy we waste on thinking how unworthy we are. Lots of folks stay away because they consider themselves unworthy.
Should remind us of the people in the Gospel who ignored the invitation of the king. The “worthy/unworthy” game is one that we will never win. Temptations, bad thoughts, bad words—some conditions are chronic—they are part of our makeup—our human condition. The Food at the Banquet offers us healing. The Eucharist is one of the healing Sacraments. Only by God’s mercy can we be saved! The wedding garment represents God’s grace—His love for us. The wedding garment is free. Anyone who refuses to put on the wedding garment is turning their back on God. The best things in life are free. The best banquet, the best meal, the best party that we will ever have is Holy Mass—and it is free. We have all been invited, regardless of our past. All that we have to do is to put on the wedding garment—accept the gift of God’s love for us.
Dinner is served. We cannot refuse the gift of life. On the contrary, we need to invite others to share our happiness. There is room for everyone.