Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost – The King Who made a Marriage-Feast for His Son
GOSPEL. Matt. xxii. 1-14. At that time: Jesus spoke to the chief priests and Pharisees in parables, saying: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son. And he sent his servants to call them that were invited to the marriage: and they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying: Tell them that were invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner, my beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come ye to the marriage. But they neglected: and went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise. And the rest laid hands on his servants, and, having treated them contumeliously, put them to death. But when the king had heard of it, he was angry, and, sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city. Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready; but they that were invited were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage. And his servants going forth into the ways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good: and the marriage was filled with guests. And the king went in to see the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: Friend, how earnest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? But he was silent. Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.
The King Who Made a Marriage-Feast for His Son
A certain king wished to celebrate in a royal manner the marriage-feast of his son, and he invited many to the banquet.
The figure is taken from the habits of great people in the East; when they made a feast, all the surrounding country was invited, and the festivities lasted several days; all that was needed for full enjoyment was supplied through the generosity of the host.
When the hour appointed for the feast had come, the servants were sent out to make known that all was ready, but they that were invited made excuses, and did not want to come, and this insulted the king. Again he sent out the servants to these and importuned them to come, but they turned their backs; some went off to cities, others went to their ordinary business avocations. There were some more cruel, who got angry at this importunity, and ill-used the servants, and went so far as to kill some of them. The first part of this parable is pointed at the Jews, whose ingratitude it shows, for which they deserve a severe rebuke from God.
He sent them prophets, great and good men, filled with the Holy Ghost. Then He sent them John the Baptist, the greatest man born of woman, but they would not listen to him. He sent them the Apostles, filled with the spirit of God, who spoke a language which all might understand, who worked great miracles and healed the sick, and still the Jews were obstinate ad persecuted them, had them crucified and inflicted the most cruel punishment on them. As soon as the king heard of this ill-treatment of his messengers he became angry, and great was the punishment that came over them.
Sixty years after the death of Our Lord, the Romans appeared before the walls of Jerusalem, with a great army; they attacked the city, burned and destroyed everything, even the beautiful Temple itself, till nothing remained, not a stone upon a stone. This is the punishment which God inflicted on the Jews for their obstinacy. All the great kindness and mercy of God was rejected by this miserable people; they remained firm in their unbelief, and God almost annihilated this nation, of which He had taken such special care for many centuries.
My dear young friends, not a moment passes that God does not speak to our heart, to induce us to live a more devout and recollected life, to frequent the sacraments, to give more good example, to hate sin, to avoid it, and to conceive greater love for Him, your God, your Creator, your Father, and your Redeemer. Ah, I beg of you with this example of God’s just anger before you, do not turn a deaf ear to His loving invitation. When He had settled with these obstinate people in a way they deserved, he called His servants again, and gave them further instructions. Since those who were invited are not worthy to come to My feast, and My feast is ready, you must try to fill the places. Go out into the high ways and byways of the country, and whomsoever you meet bring them hither. The Jews had refused obedience and God abandoned them, but He turned to the Gentiles and sent His Apostles to them to instruct them, and to preach to them the glorious tidings of the Gospel. We ourselves were of the number of the Gentiles. We came into the light, from out of the darkness, and we embraced that faith.
Great and generous was the call; we were not needed, even though the Jews refused Him. God took us up gratuitously, and adopted us into His nation, His holy people. How many others still remain blind and destitute! Millions of Mohammedans and pagans go to hell. “As the snow-flakes fall from the sky, so do these souls fall into the abyss of hell.” Who does not lament their sad fate! God might have had us born among these people, and we, too, would have been deprived of the light of faith; but as we were born among Christians and have been taught and brought up in the true religion, we ought to think seriously of how we can show our appreciation of God’s mercy and kindness our gratitude for this undeserved call.
Let us, my dear young friends, be firm and constant to the Catholic Church, out of which there is no salvation. St. Francis de Sales kept such thoughts as these before his mind, for he said he could not thank God enough for making him a son of the Church. “Great, God, great are Thy benefits to me; how can I thank Thee for the light of faith!” St. Louis, king of France, was once congratulated on being a descendant of a great and glorious royal house. “That is nothing” he answered; “the greatest gift that I have enjoyed from God is, that He has deigned to have me baptized a member of His Church.”
In the meanwhile all the guests were in their places at the great banquet, and the king, as was proper, went among them to see how they were faring. All were to be dressed in good clothes, which were given to them as they entered, for in those days the host not only furnished the table, but also the garments of the guests. Among the guests was one who had not on a wedding garment. The king asked him: “How came you in here without a wedding garment?” No doubt he had despised the liberality of the king, and said to himself, “I am well enough in this old, torn, filthy vesture”; and consequently he could offer no excuse for this affront to the king and the rest of the company. So for this offence his feet and hands were tied, and he was cast into the darkness of the night, where there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
This is the miserable sinner who, not having the grace of God, which is the wedding garment, was covered with the rags and filthy garments of sin and vice. Woe to the sinner who comes before the great King in this condition! This terrible sentence will be literally executed; he shall be thrown into exterior darkness and will hear the words: “Be gone from Me, ye accursed, into eternal fire, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” How terrible it is to be in danger of this judgment! How then should we live, that we may not fall into sin, and deserve to be treated in this way? Many are called, but few are chosen, is the conclusion, and a review of the whole parable: all were invited to the wedding-feast; some stayed away of their own accord, others were punished for appearing in an unbecoming dress, so that there were but few indeed who really enjoyed the feast. That “Many are called, but few are chosen” is true, even we, with our limited intellect, can understand. Do not the great mass of people live in sin? Do not vice and passion flood the face of the earth? Young and old lead sinful lives, and there are few who are really good. Remember that Our Lord once said, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat”; it is the great boulevard to hell, a road with splendid equipages and full of style, where everybody wants to travel. But the road that leads to paradise is very small and full of thorns; the gate is so narrow that you have to use force to get through. The kingdom of heaven requires violence to get into it, and only the violent will succeed in getting in. Be not overconfident in persuading yourselves that you are making the necessary efforts to gain heaven. St. Paul tells us that with fear and trembling we are to work out our salvation. St. Augustine feared after many years of prayer and penances and says: “I will not encourage you to think yourselves safe when I do not consider myself safe.” To be sure of your salvation is a bad sign. St. Gregory tells us: “When the devil wishes to damn us, he gives us a feeling of safety”; and St. Bernard says, “The greater sinners we are the safer we feel.”
This thought, then, that the greater part of men are to be damned, should fill our hearts with terror and with a salutary fear. We can certainly belong to the number of the elect if we choose. But let us ask ourselves whether we really choose to be of this number. What must we do? Why do so many Christians perish eternally? Why? Because they are Christians in name only. You must take your affections off the things of this world, fly from sin and bad company, eradicate every vestige of vice from your soul, deny yourselves, love God with all your heart; you must be ready to suffer any persecution rather than sully your souls with mortal sin, and keep the law of God and of the Church most exactly. These are some few of the things that you must do, in order to belong to the number of those who will enter heaven. This is certain, that those who wish to be saved will go to heaven, and those only will go to hell who want to go there. The celestial feast is open to all, the Master invites all, and is anxious that all should be there.
The invited guests that wished to go to the wedding-feast could go if they wished; all were welcome and lovingly given places at the table; but those who remained away and obstinately resisted repeated invitations did not taste of the feast.
You have good and evil before you; make your choice; if you choose the good, reward will be yours, but if the evil, you have to be content with the punishment due to your perversity.
I will conclude with the words of the Gospel: “Behold, I have prepared My dinner. My beeves and fatlings are killed and all things are ready; come ye to the marriage.”