•ISAIAH 25: 6-10 + Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20 + Matthew 22: 1-14•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Again today I am depending on that text from the book of Job that has been helping me suggest new and fresh ways to hear the parables attributed to Jesus by Matthew.
“Ask the beasts and they will teach you; the birds of the air and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of every human being.”
The parable in today’s gospel seems negative. “Jesus spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables saying, ‘a king gave a wedding feast for his son’.” The invited guests not only “refused to come” or “ignored the invitation” but for unexplained reason some even resorted to violence. “The king destroyed them and burned their city.”
Matthew’s gospel was written in the last decade of the first century. The Christian Jews had been evicted from the Jewish Synagogue because they were committed to Jesus and his vision of “the reign of God” or “God’s new reality.” In this parable Matthew’s Jesus is speaking about those who had excommunicated Matthew’s community.
The king represents God. His son represents Jesus. Invitations go out for a wedding banquet. Those first invited represent the people of Israel. They ignored the invitations. Then messengers are sent to the invited guests. Those messengers represent the Hebrew prophets. They were assaulted and killed. The king retaliates with armies and fire. The burned city represents Jerusalem, recently destroyed by the Romans. Then the feast goes on with new guests.
It does not happen often, but there are rare occasions when I invite someone to join me in my home for a meal and they fail to show up. When it happens I am both surprised and pulled into an inner dialogue wondering “why did they not come?” So it seems quite normal that when hearing this parable, the focus of our attention is directed to the invited guests who did not come. In doing so we risk missing “the good news.”
In spite of the parables negative tone, Jesus is teaching about “the kingdom of God.” When “God’s new reality” emerges, peace and well-being will be shared by everyone, and all people will live fully human lives.
“The king said to his slaves ,,, go into the main streets and invite everyone you find … and they gathered all whom they found, good and bad.” “The good news” is this: “everyone is invited – good and bad.” All that is expected of us is that we allow God’s unconditional love to transform us, freeing us to be fully human and capable of love, because we know we are loved.
Now let us try to apply the parable to our circumstances today. An invitation has gone out from many scientists, sounding the alarm about climate change. They may be wrong but all the evidence says they are correct. Some folks prefer to remain blind with denial. Denial cannot change reality. If climate change is real, and shifting weather patterns alone seem to validate the alarm sounded by most of the scientific community, then the fact is “we in the human family have crossed a threshold into a new moment of human history.” We are “ravaging the world of life.” Thousands of species have disappeared and will never be seen again. It is not enough to “mourn their disappearance.” The possibility is that we may be among them if we don’t care for the natural world filled with beasts, birds, plants and fish.
Ask the beasts, birds, plants and fish. Then step outside of our presumption of human superiority. In many complex ways the beasts, birds, plants and fish are dependent on each other and we humans as well. God’s love is inclusive of all and unconditional. “The kingdom of God is like a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” The good news is that “everyone –good and bad– is invited” to the fullness of life. That is “the reign of God” — “God’s new reality!”