|Wedding Feast at Cana -- Hieronymous Bosch|
- Exodus 32:1-14 and Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 •
- Isaiah 25:1-9 and Psalm 23 •
- Philippians 4:1-9 •
- Matthew 22:1-14
At the same time, some of the most famous feasts and banquets that the Bible depicts have a dark side -- sin subverting celebration and turning it spectacularly in the wrong direction. Belshazzer's feast in the Book of Daniel is one famous example -- an extravagant celebration that augurs the collapse of a Kingdom. Herod's feast at which Salome dances is another -- her reward taking the gruesome form of the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Feasting, then, ought to mark a joyful celebration, but it can go badly wrong.
Jesus' use of the image in the parable that forms this Sunday’s Gospel has something of this ambiguity about it. His audience's familiarity with the passage from Isaiah that provides the Old Testament lesson -- “the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines” -- means his use of this image to teach about the Kingdom of Heaven could not fail to resonate. However, it is given a special twist. To begin with, the people who ought to come to the celebration can't be bothered to come, despite the status of the host and the quality of the food. In response, the king tells his slaves to go out into the streets and gather “all whom they found, both good and bad”. Is the message this --- that social elitism has been abandoned in favor of a wonderful inclusion?
|King's Feast Pavil Filonov (1883-1941)|
Things are not quite so simple. To begin with, the guests on the original list, who treated the invitation lightly, are not included, but punished. And, it turns out, even the people gathered up from the streets and brought in without asking are not assured of a permanent place at the banquet. The hapless man who did not bother to dress properly for the occasion, is promptly thrown out.
The message seems clear. God longs for us to share 'joys that pass our understanding' with him. Good news indeed -- provided we don’t allow willfulness or carelessness to make us lose them.