Veronica Lawson rsm
3 October 2011
The catastrophic famine in the Horn of Africa is challenging us and indeed the whole developed world to consider our use of the planet’s resources.
Today’s gospel brings a warning. Like the invited guests in Matthew’s parable of the wedding banquet, we are in danger of turning our backs on a gracious invitation or ‘call’ not only to share in but also to share the riches of creation. The king’s invitation to successive and diverse groups recalls Israel’s prophetic tradition where God’s ultimate reign is imaged as a feast of the best food and wine, not just for a privileged few, but for all people.
MANY OTHER ASPECTS OF THE PARABLE ARE QUITE TROUBLING. THE INVITATION TO THE LESS PRIVILEGED COMES ONLY AFTER THOSE ON THE INITIAL GUEST LIST HAVE REFUSED TO COME. THE VIOLENT RETALIATION OF THE SPURNED HOST IS HARD TO RECONCILE WITH AN IMAGE OF GOD’S REIGN. THE SAME MIGHT BE SAID FOR HIS TREATMENT OF THE GUEST WITHOUT A WEDDING ROBE IN A SITUATION WHERE NONE OF THE GUESTS HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO PROCURE THE RIGHT ATTIRE. IT BECOMES CLEAR THAT THIS IS NOT A STORY TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY.
SO, WHAT MIGHT THIS STORY BE TELLING US? IF WE PUT ASIDE THE DESPOTIC ASPECTS OF THE KING’S CHARACTER AND PUT OURSELVES IN THE PLACE OF THE ORIGINAL AUDIENCE, WE MIGHT FIND OURSELVES QUITE AMAZED AT THE INCLUSIVENESS OF THE KING IN A WORLD WHERE THE PEOPLE ON THE STREET WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN INVITED TO SUCH A WEDDING BANQUET. IF WE THINK ABOUT THE WEDDING GARMENT AS SYMBOLIC OF A ‘RIGHT’ DISPOSITION OR ATTITUDE IN RELATION TO THE HOST, THE COMPANY, AND THE RICHES TO BE SHARED, WE MIGHT BE DRAWN TO HANDLE EARTH’S PRECIOUS RESOURCES WITH A LITTLE MORE CARE FOR THE COMMON GOOD.