Isaiah 25: 6-10a Phillipians 4: 12-14 Matthew 22: 1-14
An on-going struggle or challenge which was present during the ministry of Jesus involved efforts that he made to convey a correct understanding of the nature of God and, especially, of the relationship that God seeks with us. In the Gospel of Saint John, for example, there are recorded regular conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees. The other gospels recall similar matters. We frequently hear Jesus directing his message to the elders, the scribes, the teachers and leaders of the people as he wanted them to realize how they were falling short in their responsibilities. Thus he often challenged them to understand that the relationship with God was more than superficial.
We must remember that for ourselves and in our Faith, Jesus is not just some sort of outstanding teacher or a type of wise man. In the Incarnational faith we declare, God became man in Jesus Christ. What we experience in the teachings of Jesus is another effort on the part of God to being us into a deeper appreciation of God’s desire to be joined with us in a loving relationship.
This is the context in which we can hear the beautiful insight, the poetic message, of Isaiah. On this mountain, on this height, where God can be encountered away from the distractions and temptation of our day to day world, we experience God at a banquet, a celebration with God that nourishes and sustains us. God’s presence is revealed to us, not in power, conquest, fear, or intimidation, but in the rich foods and fine wines of a joyous feast. It is an overflowing demonstration of the joy and celebration of God’s abiding love.
It is this same imagery which provides the framework used by Jesus to describe “the kingdom of Heaven.” The reign of God with us, the totality of the experience of God in life, is to be seen as a rich and abundant banquet to which we are invited, The total manifestation of God’s love and care for us is offered to us.
How is that invitation received by those described in the parable and by us? Some cannot be bothered, others have something better to do, still others have somewhere else to go. These are rude responses, much like Jesus often received during his ministry from the leaders of the people, the elders, the scribes and the teachers.
But God’s love is not thwarted. It continues to reach out for a response. It is extended to those who are open, who are willing to listen and to respond. These are not the ones who were really considered as “desirable.” They were quite the opposite – the disreputable. The love of God for mankind, which we are called to reflect in our lives, is not restricted in any way, especially by human, judgmental attitudes..
But the story also continues. A response that is evident and sincere must be made. It is to be a response that is genuine and committed. It is a response that is to reflect a newness of life, a wedding garment that replaces what has gone on before.
The totality and the generosity of God’s love for mankind is central to the message of the ministry of Jesus. It is found not only in his teaching, but also in his death and resurrection. It is continued in his presence with us in the Eucharist and the other Sacraments we celebrate in our lives. It is to this totality and generosity what we are called to respond by transforming ourselves with a wedding garment of a newness of life. This “wedding garment” is to be shown in our words and action, day to day and every day, in a continuation of the ministry of Jesus as Church, proclaiming to the world our faith and our commitment to our good and gracious God.