The Lord invites everyone into His kingdom, but not everyone accepts the invitation. In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 22:1-14, Jesus paints a picture of the behavior of the invited guests in his kingdom.
In this parable of the Great banquet, there are three kinds of invited guests:
1. There are the absentee guests who initially accepted the invitation, but when the time came to attend the banquet they had nothing but excuses to offer and failed to turn up.
2. Then, there are the guests who are invited from "the streets; the good and the bad alike" to fill up the wedding hall, a symbol of the Lord’s church. (Matthew Chapter 22:10).
3. Finally, there is the kind of guest who is not properly dressed for the occasion because his heart is not in what he is doing.
The Lord does not say that the first group of invited guests were engaged in sinful activity. One went to his farm, another to his business (Matthew Chapter 22:5).These were worthwhile activities. Sometimes what keeps us away from entering the Lord’s kingdom is not sin but preoccupation with the things of life, like our jobs and careers.
To be attentive to your job or career is a good thing, but when they keep you from attending Church and the Lord’s banquet of the Eucharist they becomes obstacles to experiencing God in your life. Even a good thing can be the enemy of something better.
The Lord is telling us that we should not make excuses, even good excuses, to avoid our spiritual responsibilities. Remember: the road to hell is also paved with good excuses
The second group that is invited to the banquet from "the streets," the "good and bad alike" (Matthew 22:10) is a symbol of the church which exists, not for the perfect but for sinners. This invitation to the great unwashed is similar to the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) which allows the good and the bad to co-exist in the Lord’s kingdom. Still, this does not free them from the obligation of making every effort to behave correctly.
And, this brings us to the individual among the third group of guests who was not wearing the wedding garment. By not wearing the wedding garment, this individual exhibited an unwillingness to behave correctly, to take his responsibilities as a Christian seriously.
He was only there in body but not in spirit. If you must go to a dance, you must wear your dancing shoes; if you go to Church, you must act accordingly. You must be willing to hear the Lord’s word, and put it into practice.
This parable of the Great banquet illustrates that “many are called but few there are that answer the call” (Matthew Chapter 22:14).
Fr. Hugh Duffy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hull, England. Born in Donegal, Ireland, he was ordained in 1966 in Dublin, Ireland. He is pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Okeechobee, Florida, where he served for 30 years and built a new Church, debt-free, in 2013. He founded Christian Community Action (CCA) in Ireland that built housing for seniors, a sheltered workshop and bakery for people with disabilities, a community center, and an addiction treatment center. Since 2013 he has traveled across America as an Outreach Priest for Cross Catholic Outreach, Inc. Duffy’s recent book, "What is This Thing Called Faith?" is a collection of meditations with reflections for readers on the sayings of Jesus. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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