This time of year, our Liturgical calendar begins to draw to a close while naturally calling each of us to be attentive to our ultimate end. Most people’s lives today are very busy, filled with many worthy while efforts, none being more important than those immediately associated with our particular vocations. However, the Good Lord is asking us to give attention to the ultimate goal of all our worldly labors. If we are not properly informed of our final goal, then our day-to-day priorities we will not successfully aid us in reaching the heavenly Banquet to which we are invited.
The Gospel today speaks of a Banquet to which ALL are invited. This is not just any Banquet, but is a wedding feast for God’s Son. We are not just invited guests, but we are the ones being espoused to God through Jesus Christ. The voice of the Beloved is calling out to each of us precisely because we are precious in his eyes. The love of God for each of us is compared to the love of a groom for his bride.
This Banquet is foreseen in today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah as he speaks about a ‘feast of rich food and choice wines.’ The Prophet’s words not only speak of the ultimate heavenly banquet, but its precursor here on earth, the new and eternal covenant Christ has established which we celebrate in every Eucharist. The Eucharist is a participation in the heavenly banquet. There can be no richer food or more choice wine than the Bread of Life and the Chalice of Salvation. This is the ‘wedding feast of the Lamb’, who has taken the Church as his bride, and since we are the Church, we are the bride of Christ.
Jesus instructs us in today’s Gospel of the importance of this Banquet. God’s desire in creating each of us is that we share His love. Each human person’s life originates in the very love of God, is sustained through this earthly journey by God’s love, and is destined for a full participation in the eternal love of God. Therefore, we are to be attentive to the invitation from God to share in His banquet, which is to share in His love.
Matthew’s parable indicates the great human struggle to recognize this invitation of God. As we hear in today’s Gospel, some people refused to come to the Banquet. Some simply ignored the invitation, because they were too occupied with the demands of this life, with their work. Others we hear, actively worked to destroy the messengers of God, mistreating, even killing them. These individuals were ultimately found unworthy of entrance into the Banquet, and were not just denied entrance, but were destroyed themselves.
The warning here is very clear, there is nothing more important or urgent than heeding the loving invitation of God. How many people today are allowing work to consume their time and energy, to the point that it destroys the love of their marriage and family? How many people today for all kinds of reasons stay away from the Sunday banquet of the Eucharist? How many people today are actively striving to exclude the law of God from the laws that govern us as a society, and thus actively working against God’s messengers? How many lives will ultimately be lost or destroyed because they have been unresponsive to God’s love?
Today’s teaching continues. All are invited to the Banquet. The feast is ready! But, as we see, the invitation alone is insufficient. One who is found in the banquet hall is approached by the King and asked why he is not properly dressed in a wedding garment? This one is bound hand and feet and cast out into the darkness. Once again, the teaching and the warning it contains is clear. Now is the time to accept God’s invitation. Now is the time to live in communion with God. Now is the time to allow our love for Christ to inform every aspect of our life.
This invitation of God comes to us through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus through His passion and cross gave his body as food and poured out his blood as drink, that we might have eternal life. As Adam was put into a deep sleep so God could take a rib from his side into which he made for him Eve, his bride, so Christ died on the cross so that from his open side he might take to himself his bride, the Church. From this open side of Christ flow the waters of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist. Baptism is the means through which we are brought into the life of Christ, the life of the Church. Eucharist is the means by which Christ sustains his life within us. This is the wedding feast of the Lamb. This is the measure of God’s infinite love and desire for each one of us.
Today, we are invited to ask our self: “Am I too busy to hear the call of the Beloved?” “Are the activities and priorities of my life helping me to respond to God’s invitation?” “Am I following the Good Shepherd who alone can lead me to the house of the Lord?” “Is my wardrobe made up only of worldly clothes that will be consumed by moths and rot in the grave?” or am I being vested in the wedding garment of faith in and following Jesus Christ? This wedding garment alone will identify me as one worthy of participating in the eternal wedding banquet.
Today’s readings are a stark instruction that this life exists as a preparation and a passage into a fuller and eternal life. The present challenge is to be receptive to and cooperative with God’s love. A life lived in response to God’s love will have its crosses and sacrifices. Such a life of faith requires the wisdom of God. But, we have been created for this life, and thus we are quite capable of living according to its demands, and we will find in the process this life is the best way to live. As St. Paul tells us today, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Let us live by faith. Let us live by God’s grace and power. Let us live now as builders of God’s Kingdom, with the sure and certain hope that through Jesus Christ, we will attain the fullness of God’s Kingdom when our days are done.