Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
October 12, 2014
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” Matthew 22:2
We have probably never been to a royal wedding, but we have seen some televised in our lifetime. All of the publicity that surrounded the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, for example, made the ceremony one of the most watched events in history. Why such interest? Simply, because there was nothing ordinary about it. Every wedding has a touch of romance which people always find attractive, but in a royal wedding there is colorful pageantry, ancient tradition, exquisite music, and elaborate costumes that make it even more exciting.
This helps to understand a little better why Jesus would choose the wedding of a king’s son to illustrate the kingdom of heaven. Every wedding is important in the life of a family, but the wedding of a king’s son is important for a nation and a people. It has far-reaching consequences. It establishes alliances. It seals a covenant. Somehow, someway, the people know that this marriage will affect their lives.
The kingdom of heaven is consequential for us. An invitation is issued. We either accept or regret the invitation. In this case, however, rejecting the invitation has severe consequences. The king destroyed the cities of those who “were not worthy to come” (Matthew 22:8).
We are the invited who are collected from the “main roads,” the passersby, the common folk, the casual travelers, the tourists minding our own business. And then we receive an invitation to the wedding of the king’s son. The nobles have been rejected. The preferred guest list is discarded. We occupy the places of the elite. We do so humbly but not without some reflection on our unworthiness for the honor.
Interesting it is that mention is made by Jesus of the guest who was not dressed properly. What is this person’s fault? Why is he “cast [out] into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Matthew 22:13)? Why is he treated so harshly? After all, wasn’t his invitation an afterthought? The answer to that question tells us something about being invited to the heavenly banquet.
Any invitation carries with it some requirements. Even a spur of the moment invitation makes us pause and realize something is required of us. Even more is expected when invited to the wedding of a king’s son, which is what the kingdom of heaven is. Read the final chapters of the Book of Revelation.
“Many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Our invitation to the wedding of the king’s son has expectations. We are Johnny-come-latelies, but that doesn’t mean we can take advantage of the king’s generosity. God is offering us a privilege. For this we must be prepared, and this preparation requires something of us.
The Eucharist, for which the wedding feast of heaven is a foretaste, is not a casual event. The “wedding garment” we must wear is what St. Paul speaks of in his First Letter to Timothy. He writes that the aim of his preaching “… is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (I Timothy 1:3). In other words, we come to the wedding banquet not with presumption, pride, or selfishness. Instead we approach the wedding banquet with grateful humility and respectful love for the host who has deigned to invite us above all the rest. “Many are invited but few are chosen.”
An invitation to the wedding banquet of heaven is not a right. It is a privilege. Knowing that helps us approach with the right disposition.