In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable that is very challenging. In the last days of His life, Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem being questioned by the scribes and sanhedrin. He tells the story of a King who throws a banquet for His Son and invites guests to attend. At first they ignored the invitation. After a second invite that details the delicious menu for the feast, the invited guests continue to ignore the invite, and some of the invited guests decide to kill the servants of the King. The King is enraged and sends His troops to destroy the murders and their city. With the banquet ready and in need of guests, the King instructs his servants to get all people and bring them to the feast. However, some of those guests are not dressed for the wedding are thrown out.
First, Jesus is speaking directly to the Jews. Countless times in the Old Testament, the Jews turned away from God, disobeyed His commandments, and worshiped false idols. God sent many prophets to call them back, but the Jews ignored them, mistreated them, and even killed some of them. Finally, God allowed for Jerusalem to be conquered and destroyed in 587 BC, just as the King sent His troops to destroy those who had killed His servants in the parable. This happened again to Jerusalem in 70 AD after the Jews rejected Jesus and His followers (the early Church). Yet, the Jews who did accept Jesus went and told the whole world about Him and His banquet feast, the Kingdom of Heaven, thus filling the banquet hall. However, even then there are requirements for feasting with the King.
This parable is meant for more than just the Jews of the time of Jesus. We are now the ones who have been invited to the banquet through the servants of God. Are we going to be like the invited who go back to our jobs or entertainment and ignore the invitation? Are we the ones who openly ridicule and even murder (through slander and bullying) the servants of God? Are we the ones who come to the wedding feast dressed inappropriately because we did not clothe ourselves in grace and virtue during our lives? As Jesus says, many are invited, but few are chosen.
What Jesus is revealing to us is that there are two requirements to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. First is the acceptance of the invitation to the banquet. This is done through humility and repentance of our sins. Second is being appropriately dressed for the banquet by being baptized and participating in the Body of Christ. We do this by worshiping God through prayer and fasting, receiving the sacraments, and loving our neighbor. Those who do so receive a foretaste of the heavenly banquet here on earth. But those who fail to do so are destined to be cast into the darkness where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Everyday we are faced with the choice of accepting the invitation despite the trials, or giving into the temptation of pursuing our own agendas and plans. May God give us the grace to take up our cross and follow Him for the sake of the heavenly banquet.