Here is the sermon I preached this past Sunday at the Bethany Convent of the Order of St. Anne in Arlington, MA. With our somewhat smaller numbers just now I have been asked to take an occasional Sunday at the Convent, with one of the younger Brothers to drive me, and sometimes to preach. This time Br. Jim drove me, but had duties at the Monastery, so I pulled my thoughts together with this sermon. The temptation in preaching about Jesus’ parables is to try to avoid interpreting difficult passages, and to avoid thinking of them as “history” describing actual events. I think I avoided this most of the way, but occasionally found myself unavoidably trying to explain. The last paragraph was a gift from the Holy Spirit working through my memory.
Today’s Gospel is a parable told by Jesus about a wedding feast for a king’s son, with a second “mini parable” tacked on at the end. Most of Jesus’ parables have some explanation of the point he was making. This one we have to work at to find exactly what Jesus was trying to teach to that very mixed crowd in Jerusalem.
It was customary at that time for invitations to special events to be sent out well in advance of the occasion being celebrated.
Closer to the actual time of the event a summons would be sent out to those who had been invited earlier. For those who had other obligations, making the summons fit in with their own priorities must have been difficult. No wonder everyone declined the summons. Some gave what seemed to be legitimate excuses, others took the invitation lightly, and some even reacted with anger, or violence against the king’s messengers. The main point of the parable is that it was God who was the King. The point of the invitation was anyone can belong to God’s Kingdom. Jesus told the parable in the face of a very exclusive Jewish social structure.
The parable was aimed at those who were only concerned about themselves, and for keeping up the “purity” of their status in a culture that was obsessed about purity.
When all of the invited guests refused to attend the feast the king told his servants to go out into the streets of the city and invite anyone they met to come to the banquet. All those whom the servants found were brought in to the festivities whether they seemed good or bad. By this we can imply that gentiles, tax collectors, non-practicing Jews, foreigners, and sinners were very likely included.
The significance of the man who was not wearing a wedding robe is not so easy to discern.
The requirement of special wedding robes does not seem to have been a custom in those days. It may have been a device used by Jesus to indicate a person who did not belong there. A more spiritual explanation might be his attitude. The man was not wearing a wedding garment may have let it show that he wasn’t prepared to participate. He didn’t fit in. To us it seems a bit drastic that he was bound hand and foot and thrown into outer darkness. But this was a different age from ours. It was a story to illustrate a particular truth.
We should remember that the parable was told over 2,000 years ago in a different time and place from ours.
I think the main point of this parable within a parable may be those final words, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
The parable of the King’s Banquet was told by Jesus in a very different time and place, a very different setting from where we are. Can you find comparable things in our own modern world to which some of the points in the parable might apply? There are still exclusivist groups in this world that do not truly accept the ideals that Jesus taught—mercy and forbearance, faith in God and mutual love, the standards upheld by the Church.
We are here to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Communion in which we realize Jesus’ presence with us as we partake of his Body and Blood. I hope you have learned something from the lessons Jesus taught in those two parables that will help you appreciate the meaning of this Holy Eucharist.
Draw near with faith! Rejoice, give thanks and praise God for all of His blessings!
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