Notice During the Covid-19 Outbreak
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October 10, 2020
A Reflection from the Christian Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
Matthew 22: 1-14 is not the most inspiring of the parables of Jesus. In fact, Matthew’s rendition seems to reflect the conditions and circumstances found in the community of St. Matthew. Whatever Jesus might have originally said was modified by the Evangelist of a later period. The Gospels do not simply reflect or repeat what Jesus said. They modify and develop what Jesus said and did in light of the circumstances of their respective times and places. We would do well to do the same. Preservation is not necessarily fidelity. The Evangelist had the courage to hear the voice of Jesus in a new and contemporary circumstance.
A second look at the parable in question reveals a great lesson. Grace freely given demands it be freely shared in ways both gracious and responsible. Verse 12, with its reference to the “wedding garment” is quite telling. Weddings imply commitment, companionship, and partnership. The parable is not concerned with a dress code. The parable demands faithful disciples of Jesus practice two essential virtues: gratitude and generosity.
Whenever we find ourselves invited to a special event such as a wedding, we express our support and gratitude by being guests who are gracious and generous. We interrupt the normal course of daily life as we prepare to rejoice in the love of the soon to be married couple. If we think about it deeply, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, are times of giving thanks for the people who love us and want us to be part of their lives. As the invited guests in the parable rejected their invitations, they revealed their desire that nothing should interrupt the normal course of their daily concerns. Matthew’s rendition of the parable goes so far as to state the messengers of invitation were murdered by the reluctant guests. This is strong imagery but not far off the mark of what happens when gratitude and generosity are replaced with resentment and selfishness.
Matthew has already established the inclusivity of the “Kingdom” Jesus announces where prostitutes, criminals, and thieves are invited and respond (see Matthew 21:31). Yes, God loves to love those who need to be loved. The invited guests may very well have resented a love too great for their small-minded expectations. Not a few people, loved by God, have been slaughtered on the altar of self-righteousness and resentment. I have met people who would not go to the wedding of their own children because of prejudice, bigotry, or self-righteousness.
There was no controlling Jesus. He spoke of God in terms of unconditional love and compassion. He announced not a reign of terror but a judgement based on mercy and reconciliation. He enraged those who believed they could only be loved if they did the right thing, thought the acceptable thoughts, and believed what they thought was true. He disrupted the norms of those who brokered God’s love with unrealistic expectations, regulatory excesses, and hardness of heart. They could never accept the invitation or put on a “wedding garment” since they refused to dance and sing when God loved the “wrong” people.
The harshness of the parable, oddly enough, reveals how seriously Jesus engaged the unbounded mercy of God. He held his disciples to the highest standards of forgiveness, reconciliation, and empathy. They were to clothe themselves in Christ, as St. Paul would say (Romans 13: 14). We give thanks to God when we clothe one another with graciousness and generosity born of empathy, care, and compassion.
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for clothing yourself in Christ. Thank you for accepting the invitation to the Wedding of God’s Great Love for everyone.