The Wedding Program
In pretty much every aspect of our lives, there are rules to govern expectations, behavior, and results. Every football game is played with rules that are (usually) enforced. When we head out on the road, there are rules to govern how we move and respect other motorists. Even within our families there are expectations of behavior that we could call “rules” that help us to know who we are and how we belong to one another. Rules mean order; and order yields peace.
We are keenly aware of rules this year in particular, as we have had to adhere to strict guidelines about where we can eat, how much space we give one another, wearing masks, what activities are safe, some ways in which we celebrate Mass. These rules are often sniffed at by those who would rather assert personal, individual freedom; but ultimately, these rules are for our own good, in order to keep us safe and healthy. Those rules, too, mean order, and order yields peace.
Rules are a defense against chaos. We may argue about which rules we should have, but everyone agrees, to some degree or another, that rules are necessary. When God created the world, He set certain rules in place. Some of these we can break – like moral precepts; and some of them we cannot – like gravity or the passage of time. However, what we cannot do is set rules aside as if they do not exist. God is sovereign, and we belong to Him. His rules also mean order; and that order brings peace.
Today, Jesus tells another parable about a wedding feast. A king invites his friends to his son’s wedding feast. There are social rules in play here. Friendship and loyalty call those who are invited to join the king at the wedding feast. However, all those invited – the king’s friends – refused to come. Maybe they were leaving their options open, in case another, better offer came along. However, how much better than a king’s feast would they get? Perhaps, when they were pressed to come by those second servants, they resented the guilt trip. Perhaps, they thought that there would always be a space for them anyway and they didn’t need to come just now. Whatever the reasons, the result is the same: “The king was enraged.”
We know that this parable is about God’s kingdom; Jesus even says so. Therefore, the king is God the Father, the groom is Jesus, the Son, and the wedding feast is the fellowship of the kingdom to which we are all summoned. The Church is the earthly sign of this kingdom. God does not want His Son’s wedding banquet empty! There are rules, and you can’t have a decent wedding feast without the guests. Therefore, He invites everyone to it and gathers them in for the celebration. We are here at that banquet now! The Eucharist is the wedding feast of the Lamb – the celebration of Christ the Bridegroom with the Church His Bride.
But it is not enough to simply be invited and present. There are rules here too. This wedding has a program. One of the gathered guests is present without a wedding garment. What is this all about? Who is that person? Why do we malign him because of his attire? On the surface, it seems unfair and heavy-handed. However, remember that this is a parable and there is rich symbolism. The guest gathered were “bad and good alike,” meaning that there were many different types of sinners there. What Jesus offers to the sinner, though, is the invitation to conversion; and in this conversion, our soiled garments are made white – appropriate for a wedding banquet. Being present for that feast did not seem to make any difference or impact on that man. This particular guest had refused that conversion, but still wanted to enjoy the feast. Who wouldn’t?
What does the parable of the wedding feast teach us? Who are we in this story? Certainly, we want to be part of the feast at the end. But, as with so many things, we probably identify with a couple of the characters from time to time. Maybe we take church for granted, always assuming that it’ll be here when we are moved to come. Maybe we resent being reminded of our duties toward God and neighbor and turn our backs of that call. Maybe we believe we are too busy for the festivity of the feast.
Inside, are we connected fully with the King? Have we undergone the conversion of heart to which Jesus invites us? Are there rules that we see as unnecessary or antiquated so we don’t follow them? Do we sort of create our own feast in a cafeteria style? These are not part of the rules of the wedding feast. We cannot be so comfortable with our relationship to God and the Church that we adopt a “rules-were-meant-to-be-broken” attitude. No. Rules mean order, and order leads to peace.
When Jesus returns, it won’t be on Facebook, in a Zoom meeting, or through a live-stream. We probably won’t be in church, either. Therefore, we need to go through that conversion of heart now, so that we are prepared when the King greets us, not reduced to silence. Jesus is here now. We are called to be part of this feast. Let’s also pray that we prove worthy to be chosen.