As I reflected on the meaning of this week's Gospel I couldn't help but compare how the whole concept of wedding invitations has evolved. Google 'wedding invitations' and you get 50,000,000 results in less than a second. I narrowed my search to 'wedding invitation etiquette' and there were only 1,650,000 results. Now that's more manageable! To my surprise there were almost as many results for 'wedding invitation responses'. This particular response from the Emily Post Institute caught my eye: "A guest’s first duty is to respond promptly to any wedding invitation." Responding to the invitation is where the Gospel gets interesting.
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast."' Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.' The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?' But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.' Many are invited, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:1-14
The chief priests and the elders must have loved this parable. (insert sarcasm) Could they have been happy about the professed son of the King preaching at them with this story? The answer is in the verse that follows this passage. "Then the Pharisees* went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech." Not only did they not get Jesus' message, they were turned off enough by it that they went away to plot against Him.
They did this in spite of the fact that their decision to do so placed them squarely in the parable in less than a flattering way. The chief priests and elders don't just ignore the message as some ignored the invitation to the wedding feast. They behave more like those who "mistreat" the messenger. Eventually these same men are complicit in the killing of the King's Son as they shout "Crucify him!" They totally missed Jesus' point. Now there's an understatement!
Where are you and I in this particular parable? Surely, we aren't plotting to mistreat and kill the King's servants. We aren't ignoring the King's invitation. Are we? What about the guest who comes to the wedding feast without a proper wedding garment? Jesus' parable is meant for all, just as the King's invitation is. We must prepare our "wedding garment", ourselves, to attend the feast. This is done each and every day. Accepting His invitation as a prepared guest makes us one of the chosen. Are you ready to attend?