Allegorical parables

Monastery Wedding banquet


- Matthew 22,1-14
- Exegesis parable.

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The wedding banquet

From the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 22, Verses 1-14

Jesus spoke to them in parables and said: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who made a wedding feast for his son. He sent his servants to call the wedding guests, but they did not want to come. Again he sent other servants to say, "Here I have prepared my lunch; my oxen and my fattened animals are already slaughtered and everything is ready; come to the wedding". But they did not care and went to their own field, who to their own affairs; others then took his servants, insulted them and killed them. Then the king was indignant and, sending his troops, killed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his servants: "The wedding banquet is ready, but the guests were not worthy of it; go now to the crossroads of the streets and all those you will find, call them at the wedding". When they went out into the streets, those servants gathered all they found, good and bad, and the room was filled with diners. The king entered to see the diners and, escorted a man who did not wear the wedding dress said to him, "Friend, how could you enter here without the wedding dress?" And he fell silent. Then the king ordered the servants: "Tie him hands and feet and throw him out into the darkness; there will be weeping and grinding of teeth". Because many are called, but few chosen".

Parable exegesis

The recipients of this text are the chief priests and the elders of the people, scandalized by the fact that Jesus even ate with the tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes and pagans. The content of this parable of the evangelist Matthew is similar to that of Luke (cf. Lk 14: 16-24), however it differs in some details. The kingdom of heaven is therefore similar to a king who gives a wedding banquet for his son: the king is God the father, the son is Jesus Christ and their union with the People, from whom the Church is born, is compared here to one wedding and the banquet given in honor of the great event.

So "he sent his servants to call the wedding guests." In the Easter, after a first official invitation made by the master, it was customary to send servants to take the guests and to courting them to the banquet hall: God called the Jews to enter his Church and renewed the invitation by means of prophets before, and of the Baptist and of Jesus himself after, but to no avail.

Even after the death of his beloved son, he sent other servants - the Apostles - to reiterate the invitation, who after the ascension of Jesus announced that everything was prepared: the lamb was immolated, the sacraments instituted, the gifts of the Spirit communicated Holy, they preached that not only the Jews could join the Church of God the Father, but all those who believed and converted: "It was necessary that the word of God be proclaimed to you first, but since you reject it and do not judge yourselves worthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the pagans! Thus, in fact, the Lord has ordered us".
(Acts 13,46)

So, going out into the streets, those servants "gathered all they found, good and bad, and the room was filled with diners": in fact, they did not have to make any distinction, it was enough that those approached accepted the invitation, because God wants the Gospel be preached to all and that no one is precluded the way of salvation. There is only one condition that limits access to this street: "the king entered to see the diners and, seeing a man who did not wear the wedding dress, [...] ordered the servants: "Bind him hands and feet and throw him out into the darkness; there will be weeping and grinding of teeth".

To be admitted to the eternal wedding of the Lamb in heaven, belonging to the Church is not enough, but it is necessary to wear the nuptial robe of sanctifying grace: the nuptial robe represents a consistently active Christian life, an essential condition to be able to actually benefit from the gift of salvation brought from Jesus.

"Tie him hands and feet and throw him out into the darkness; there will be weeping and grinding of teeth." Because many are called, but few chosen", is the conclusion of the parable: all were called, both the Jews and the Pagans; few, however, were able to accept the invitation with dignity, because only those who wore a wedding dress were admitted to the wedding. At a wedding banquet with dirty work clothes or with a lack of good creation is the attitude of those who underestimate the importance of weddings, even more than these particular weddings: to believe that grace, salvation and happiness are "at a good price" or granted regardless is making fun of God, not believing in His justice, implacable as perfect.

Being called to salvation and being effectively saved is an equation that occurs only when the acceptance of the invitation, that is, the adhesion to the call coincides with "the principle of responsibility". To the new Covenant, realized through the incarnation of the Son and the consequent work of redemption, God invited the Jews first through the announcement and action of the various prophets; since the outcome was not satisfactory, once the redemption was accomplished, he still sent the first preachers of the Gospel to the Jews; but even in this case the answer was not up to the call: some of the servants of God were beaten up, others killed or martyred, like Stephen and John the Baptist.

In doing so, it became clear that the "first guests", that is, the chosen people who already Moses had freed from the condition of slavery and led to the Promised Land, did not want to take part in the banquet: not only did he refuse the invitation preferring to follow earthly interests , but he insulted and killed the servants sent by the master; in this sense, the Jews were the architects of violent persecutions, of which the Apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ were victims.

By killing the king's servants, they denied the sovereign's authority with an open rebellion against him. Then we understand the indignation of the king who, after their refusal, decided to send his troops against the renegades, to kill those assassins and set their cities on fire. The vengeance of God was already terrible at that time: His militias on earth were the Roman armies who, under the guidance of Titus, in 70 AD made a horrible massacre of Jews and destroyed their kingdom forever, reducing in a pile of ruins Jerusalem and its temple".
(cf. Mt 27.25; Lk 23.28-31).

Meanwhile others had been called to share in the goods of redemption: sinners, idolaters, slaves ... and these responded en masse. As the nuptial dress of the parable is not the cause of being at the banquet, but its absence is the cause of being driven out of it, so the observance of the moral law does not justify, regardless of membership, belonging to the group of the elect, but the non-compliance with this law is the cause of their damnation. The sentence that closes the parable, "many are called, but few are chosen", may seem inconsistent with the real situation since, in the end, only one of the guests was found unworthy of taking part in the banquet, because they were not adorned with the appropriate wedding dress. It is a more general principle, which includes the meaning of the whole parable.

All were called: the negligent, the rebels, the vagabonds, "bad and good", and the same one who did not present himself in the wedding dress. However, not all are elected, evidently because of some of their guilt which did not allow them to participate concretely in the wedding banquet. However large the number of those called, it is not therefore necessary to have illusions: it is not enough to be such, to consider oneself already chosen.

The theme proposed in this parable is the connection between the Kingdom and Jesus; the considerations that emerge from the text have the advantage of orienting us in the direction of living, in the faith of God, friendship with Jesus, which is the key to being able to enter that Kingdom: only through Him can the Kingdom become a completely free gift, in no way programmable or collectable, and therefore infinitely surprising. Christianity is not a doctrine to be followed, a practice to be implemented, a ritual to be celebrated, but it is a personal relationship to be cultivated intimately and collectively with Jesus.

The parable insists on the "here and now", to affirm that whoever lives faith in Jesus consistently, has the grace to taste it immediately. The servant reports to the guests that "everything is ready", that the banquet cannot be postponed: they must present themselves now! In fact, the feast is celebrated thanks to the presence of Jesus, here and now. Therefore, this is the right time to accept the invitation; tomorrow may be too late and nothing can be done.