The king sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come (Matthew 22,1).
“I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.” So runs the line in a dozen gangster movies – refuse at your peril is the subtext. Today’s Gospel is from that point of view a strange case of refusing a wonderful offer, an invitation to a royal wedding. There is a sense of course in which every wedding is a royal wedding, and indeed, in the Orthodox Church part of the ceremony includes placing crowns on the heads of bride and groom. And yet those who had been invited refused the invitation – one by one they all began to make excuses. Strange, isn’t it? All is prepared, the fatted calf has been killed, we can be sure that the wine will flow in abundance, and yet they don’t want to come. Would you refuse such an invitation? What is it all about?
Really, there is no mystery, and there is little doubt that the chief priests and Pharisees, to whom these words were addressed, would have got the message. These parables are allegories – the characters and the situations stand for something else, in this case the king is God the Father, the son is Jesus, the wedding feast is the kingdom, those invited are the Jews who have refused to listen to God’s messengers, in the first instance the prophets, and last of all Jesus himself. Finally, we are told, in his rage, the king sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Because of their disobedience and wilfulness, these folk came to a dreadful end. It is little wonder that the chief priests and the Pharisees hated Jesus and sought to destroy him, for they stood accused.
But there is a serious lesson in this for us as well. We too have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. For us too the fatted calf has been killed, we too are invited to take the seats of honour. But although the invitation is there for us to accept, remember that it comes from a king, the supreme King, and kings expect certain things from their subjects in return . The king expects us to hear the message that Jesus brings, and to respond in faith and obedience. All these things I have done from my youth up, I hear you say, but we need a watchful faith, because we live in a society and at a time when the pressures on Christians to conform to the way of the world have never been greater, and we need to beware lest what we believe to be a true and loyal faith has been subverted so that it becomes little different from the way of life of our pagan neighbours. We all of us from time to time need a spiritual check up. When did you last have yours?
Fr. Edward Bryant