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Matthew 22:1-14 Prepared by: Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. 1. Subject Matter
The meaning of ―salvation‖—we recognize salvation because it corresponds to what our heart has always ―looked for‖ The care and Providence of God The meaning of the ―wedding feast‖
2. Exegetical Notes
―Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!‖ – ―In Isaiah 25:9, God is praised for keeping the promises, for carrying out the plans formed in the beginning. There was long waiting, to be sure; more than one generation asked the question, ‗How long, O Lord, will you tarry?‘ But on the day of deliverance, the faithful will say, ‗This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.‘ The verse parallels the word of Psalm 9. In the song the people affirm that God is theirs, that they have waited in the expectation that he would save them, and they rejoice in that salvation.‖ (NIB) ―I can do all things in him who strengthens me‖ – ―Christ gives to his apostle the power to endure all things for the sake of the spread of the Gospel‖ (J. Fitzmyer). ―Tell those invited: Everything is ready; come to the feast‖ – ―The key to the meaning is the reference to the forgotten wedding garment (endyma gamou), which is from the same root as the word for putting on clothes (endyein). In the Pauline literature the image of ‗putting on‘ is used frequently for assuming a definite way of life‖ (J.R. Donahue).
3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
234 The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men "and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin". 851 God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth"; that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary. 1460 We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of "him who strengthens" us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ . . . in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth "fruits that befit repentance." These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father. 1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him." 1329 The Lord's Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem. 1612 The nuptial covenant between God and his people Israel had prepared the way for the new and everlasting covenant in which the Son of God, by becoming incarnate and giving his life, has united to himself in a certain way all mankind saved by him, thus preparing for "the wedding-feast of the Lamb."
4. Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities
St. Gregory the Great: ―Anyone who has been able to reach out for the truth has been on fire with this love. For this reason David said, ‗My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God.‘ It is right that the soul, after bearing in its heart a wound of love brought on by its burning desire, should reach out for healing at the sight of the doctor. The heart of a person who does not seek the face of his Creator is hardened by his wickedness, because in itself it remains cold. But if it now begins to burn with the desire of following him whom he loves, it runs since the fire of love has melted it. It finds nothing agreeable outside of its Creator; things that one delighted the heart afterwards become grievously oppressive.‖ St. Augustine: ―What is that sufficiency which we shall possess when we shall have not need? God will give his glory to us so that we may enjoy it. God himself will be the entire sufficiency which we shall possess as our own. What does anyone, for whom God is not enough, seek from God?
St. Augustine: ―All sorts of people indeed can suffer poverty, but to know how to suffer poverty is a mark of greatness. Likewise, who is there who may not abound? But to know how to abound belongs to none but those who are not corrupted by abundance.‖ St. John Chyrsostom: ―Any achievement I have had belongs not to me but to the One who gave me strength.‖ Ambrosiaster: ―It is indeed the glory of Jesus Christ when by the will of God the desires of Christians are fulfilled in accordance with the teaching of the Gospel.‖ St. Gregory the Great: ―The Father made a marriage feast for his Son by joining the Church to him through the mystery of his Incarnation.‖ St. Maximos the Confessor: ―Indeed, God‘s desire for our salvation is the primary and preeminent sign of his infinite goodness, and it was precisely in order to show that there is nothing closer to God‘s heart that the divine Word of God the Father, with untold condescension, lived among us in the flesh, and that he died, suffered, and said all that was necessary to reconcile us to God the Father when we were at enmity with him, and to restore us to the life of blessedness from which we had been exiled.‖ St. Gregory the Great: ―The one who sees himself despised when he issues the invitations will not have the marriage feast of his son the king empty. He sends for others, because although God‘s word is in danger from some, it will find a place to come to rest. Often it is those who meet no prosperity in their earthly actions who come readily to God.‖ Apollinaris: ―But grace is even given to the rejected and outcast, to the evil and to the good, if it is that they really obey the calling to do good, having clothed themselves with the new humanity.‖ St. Augustine: ―The garment that is required is in the heart, not on the body. The wedding garment is charity from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a faith unfeigned.‖ St. Gregory the Great: ―What then must we understand by the wedding garment but love? He may have faith, but he does not have love.‖ Venerable John Henry Newman: ―Christ made his feast for the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. It is the widow and the fatherless, the infirm, the helpless, the devoted, bound together in prayer, who are the strength of the Church. It is their prayers, be they many or few, the prayer of Mary and such as Mary, who are safety, under Christ, of those who fight the Lord‘s battles.‖ Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar: ―Thanksgiving arises from the Church, who becomes a bride by means of the meal. The Father gives his last and best; he has nothing better. Therefore, he who scorns this most precious gift can expect nothing more. He judges himself, he falls into ruin. There are two forms of scorning the invitation. There are two forms of scorning the invitation. The first form is indifference: those invited care nothing for the grace offered them—they have better things to do, their earthly business is more pressing. But since God has entered into a covenant with man, he cannot tolerate this sort of contempt for his offer. The second form of unworthiness is that of the man who strolls into the Eucharistic Celebration as if entering a pub. God bestows things on us without measure. But he does this to the end that we will learn to give ourselves without calculating, without stinginess. The best thanks, the thanksgiving that makes God happiest, is that we absorb something of the spirit of self-giving sacrifice, understand it, and implement it.‖
Msgr. Luigi Giussani: ―By obliterating the consciousness of total dependence and of the inevitable state of asking—which derives its substance from prayer—man loses himself, he rejects salvation…. ‗Salvation‘ implies man‘s fulfillment, his total meaning, the answer to his ultimate questions.‖
5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars
St. Ignatius of Antioch (feast day: October 17): Unlike those in the parable who refused the king‘s invitation to the wedding feast, St. Ignatius embraced the event of his martyrdom with all his heart and soul, even to the point that he could claim, ―I am God‘s wheat and shall be ground by the wild beasts‘ teeth to become Christ‘s pure bread.‖ Not only did he want to be a guest at the Son‘s Wedding Feast, he wanted to become part of the meal!
6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI ―Worship follows in Christianity first of all in thankful acceptance of the divine deed of salvation. The essential form of Christian worship is therefore rightly called ‘Eucharistia’, thanksgiving. In this form of worship human achievements are not placed before God; on the contrary, it consists in man‘s letting himself be endowed with gifts; we do not glorify God by supposedly giving to him out of our resources—as if they were not his already!—but letting ourselves be endowed with his own gifts and thus recognizing him as the only Lord. We worship him by dropping the fiction of a realm in which we could face him as independent business partners, whereas in truth we can only exist at all in him and from him.‖ ―In practice, even one for whom the existence of God, the world of faith, has grown dim, should live today quasi Deus esset—as if God really exists. He should live subject to the reality of truth, which is not our creation, but our mistress. He should live under the standard of justice, which is not just a product of our own minds, but the norm by which we ourselves are measured. He should live subject to the love that awaits us and that loves even us. He should live under the challenge of eternity. In fact, one who consciously lets himself be formed by this concept will see that it is the only way that the human race can be saved. God—and he alone—is our salvation.‖ ―Love represents simultaneously both man‘s highest possibility and his deepest need, and that this most necessary thing is at the same time the freest and the most unenforceable, means precisely that for his ‗salvation‘ man is meant to rely on receiving. If he declines to let himself be presented with the gift, then he destroys himself.‖ ―The salvation that is offered us is no mechanical process or exterior matter. It has been entrusted to our freedom and has thereby also been rendered vulnerable to the fragility of human freedom and of the human character. Salvation begins anew in every man; it is not simply there. You cannot just cement it on externally or control it by the use of power, but always only enter into the freedom that opens up. But above all and in all is the One who comes to meet us and who gives us a hope that is stronger than all the devastation that men can bring to pass.‖ ―Salvation consists, not in being immersed in namelessness, but rather in the ‗satisfaction in seeing his face‘ that will be granted to us when we awaken.‖
7. Other Considerations
Today‘s parable concerns a king who invites guests to a wedding feast for his son. The first mention of a king in the Gospel of Matthew refers to the infant Jesus (Mt 2:2). From the moment of his birth, he too is rejected, this time by another king, Herod. The other king featured in a parable demonstrates tremendous pity and forgiveness—a compassion that the receiver promptly exploits (Mt 18:27-35). At the last judgment, Jesus the king will come as a shepherd to welcome into heaven those devoted to caring for needy neighbors in their affliction (Mt 25:34, 40). In his arraignment before Pilate and in his crucifixion, it is the kingship of Christ that gets contested, mocked, and rejected (Mt 27:11, 29, 37, 42). Thus, to rebuff the invitation of the king signifies a deadly and death-dealing lack of compassion. It denotes a refusal to accept the grace that the wedding feast represents. Notice how all that the king asks is for his guests to be there at the feast. Nonetheless, catering instead to self-serving motives, they all callously—even murderously—decline the king‘s gracious invitation. Their refusal is not simply disobedience of duty owed the king—it is a repulsion of love (symbolized by the wedding). The divine King desires our presence at the feast, not for his sake, but for our own good! To be ―worthy‖ means to live with self-abandoned reliance on the providence of God (Mt 10:9-10). It means loving Jesus Christ more than father, mother, son or daughter (Mt 10:37). To be worthy we must be willing to take up our cross and follow after Jesus (Mt 10:38). The Gospel leads us to assume that the host provides the wedding garment for the man, but that the man obstinately discards it. Such a rejection is tantamount to betrayal, which is why the king addresses the ingrate in the same way that Jesus addresses Judas: ―Friend‖ (Mt 26:50). The absence of any good excuse on the man‘s part confirms his guilt. He is reduced to silence like the Sadducees by Jesus (Mt 22:34). And like the wicked third servant (Mt 25:30)—another symbol of Judas—the king casts him into the darkness where there is grinding of teeth. Everything about the feast is ready, therefore we too must be ready (see Mt 3:3; 24:44; 25:10). Our glory consists in knowing that God has chosen us (Mt 24:31) and in responding with all our heart to his invitation.
Recommended Resources Benedict XVI, Pope. Benedictus. Yonkers: Magnificat, 2006. Biblia Clerus: http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerus/index_eng.html Cameron, Peter John. To Praise, To Bless, To Preach—Cycle A. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2001. Donahue, John R. The Gospel in Parable: Metaphor, Narrative, and Theology in the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1988. Hahn, Scott: http://www.salvationhistory.com/library/scripture/churchandbible/homilyhelps/homilyhelps.cfm. Martin, Francis: http://www.hasnehmedia.com/homilies.shtml
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