St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church
Ezekiel 36:23-28 + Matthew 22:1-14
August 20, 2020
“Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
What are we to make of the violence in this parable? The violence flies in two directions. The second is on the part of the king, who acts in retribution. Jesus issues a warning to us here that His Father is not just some sort of teddy bear, but rather a Just Judge. On a practical level, though, the first form of violence is more important for us to reflect on, for it challenges our own way of acting.
First, some who are invited to the feast carry out violence. Some invited guests simply refuse to come: “Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.” But the rest of those invited killed the messengers! Who are these invited guests, and who are the messengers?
In terms of the first century, when Jesus walked the earth, these invited guests symbolize those to whom Jesus was originally speaking. The evangelist tells us that these are “the chief priests and elders of the people”. But the evangelist recorded this parable in his Gospel account because it has perennial meaning. This parable has been proclaimed in churches in every century since Jesus walked the earth. The parable’s invited guests symbolize all of mankind who have heard God’s desire that “all peoples” and “all nations” enter into the wedding feast of Heaven. We need, for our own sake, to understand the parable’s invited guests as ourselves: you and I!
If we remember not only that God is inviting us into Heaven, but that confessing our sins to the Lamb who was slain is the ticket into the banquet, then we can more easily identify with the ungrateful invited guests. “Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.” These persons have no need for either the ticket or the feast. They have their own lives, and they are their own masters.
But then there are the others who had been invited. They “laid hold of [the king’s] servants, mistreated them, and killed them.” This violence forces the question: who are these servants, and how can we understand the violence done to them? Those who bring the Lord’s invitation to conversion may be other persons: for example, a spouse, a parent, a priest, an employer, a neighbor, a grandparent, or a friend. Unfortunately, we want spouses who compliment us, priests who tickle our ears from the pulpit, and friends who will tell us about the faults of others, rather than about our own.