Raymond F. Dlugos, O.S.A.
North Andover, Massachusetts
Is 25: 6-10a
Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Phil 4: 12-14, 19-20
Mt 22: 1-14
The reign of God is not so much about the menu as it about the guest list. Who can argue with the menu of juicy, rich foods and pure, choice wines? The first reading from the prophet Isaiah is a description of God’s great dream and hope that we would all be gathered in one place where we would together enjoy with delight the abundance of God’s gifts for all of us. Like a great matriarch, God is happiest when all of her children are home from all of the places they have scattered themselves. While we may be happy to be with God, we may not be so crazy about sharing the feast with the rest of the family. Why can’t this great feast on God’s holy mountain be an intimate dinner for two rather than a banquet that gathers everyone from all corners of the world?
And so the parable unfolds as the first invited decline because they have better offers that will serve their own self-interests better than wasting time at wedding banquet and so their choices of solitary enterprises…my farm…my business…my family…separated them from the rest of us. The violence that erupts at the end of that paragraph is the inevitable result of choosing isolation and separateness over community and the common good.
The invitation then goes forth to those who are thrilled to be included, thrilled to be invited, thrilled to be considered worthy. The thrill comes from the reality that they have usually been separated from the mainstream of humanity even as they make up the vast majority of humanity. They come from the margins, the edges, the places of insignificance and they have no “mine” that would keep them from being part of “us.”
And yet one still stands out and remains solitary in his refusal to don the wedding garment provided by his host, the garment that marks all as guests and therefore all as one. So this one remains solitary, clinging to his uniqueness, his difference and unwilling to be just like everyone else.
God’s great desire is to gather the whole family for the wedding banquet of his son, the feast on the holy mountain to which those willing to accept the invitation to be part of the family come streaming. No one is uninvited. But there are those who will not accept the invitation to be gathered and so they remain isolated and separate. But they isolate themselves even as the welcome for them remains. They deliberately choose to not be part of the true mainstream of humanity being gathered by God. We may make that sad and tragic choice for reasons that we often celebrate and glory in.
For example, our competitive drive to always be better, richer, more dominant, and more powerful that the rest of the human race isolates and separates us from the wedding feast on God’s holy mountain.
Our self-righteous tendencies to judge who is worthy to be welcomed and who is not separate us rather than the ones we judge unworthy from the wedding feast on God’s holy mountain.
We isolate ourselves from God’s great gathering whenever we decide that the chefs and serving staff are sub-par and we deserve better.
We isolate ourselves when we decide that the guest list is simply not up to our standards because it includes those we do not care to associate with.
No one deserves an invitation to the wedding feast, it is our shared unworthiness hidden beneath the wedding garment of God’s grace and mercy that makes us worthy. But we isolate ourselves from the gathering whenever we decide that we are just fine the way we are and so have no need of that mercy or the wedding garment that designates as a sinner who has been forgiven.
The menu for the feast on God’s holy mountain is superb. All are welcome to enjoy it for all eternity if only all are willing to be welcomed along with everyone else.