This passage from Matthew’s Gospel is a masterful piece of irony.
Then he said to his servants; The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find. – Matthew 22:8-9
This passage from Matthew’s Gospel is a masterful piece of irony. Jesus is telling the truth straight here, as always, within the wonderful tool of a parable. He is giving yet another description of the Kingdom of heaven to those who will hear it, not just with their ears, but with their minds, hearts and souls.
A wedding feast is an occasion of joy. Here we see a king, a father, who has prepared this feast, this joyous occasion, for his son. The king sends his servants, to tell the invited guests to come to the feast, “but they did not want to come.” (Matthew 22:3) Why would anyone turn down such a joyously and celebratory invitation? Yet some turn away from that generous invitation. They are too busy with worldly concerns, with the vain pursuits of money, fame, or power. Some may even consider themselves to be above such a passe, antiquated idea as marriage. To attend such an event would be beneath their personal, private, more “sophisticated” understanding of such things.
So the king has his servants go out into the streets to invite “all the people they could find, good and bad alike; and the wedding hall was filled with people.” (Matthew 22:10) Now, everybody knows that while a wedding feast is a joyous celebration, a reason for a good party, that one must dress properly for such an event out of respect for the couple, the family, and in honor of the august and powerful idea of marriage. In this case, these newly invited guests would never have thought themselves worthy of being invited to the king’s son’s wedding. They were, after all, just the poor, the unremarkable, the common folk. Stunned and thrilled by the king’s generous offer to them to join in the celebration of his son’s wedding, they would have dressed, shyly, in their best, “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes. They might have been old clothes, but they would have been carefully washed, brushed and pressed. But one thoughtless soul comes as he is. When asked why he would come without dressing in wedding clothes, he is “reduced to silence” fully aware that he has no excuse, and is tossed out into the darkness outside “where there [is] only wailing and the grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 22:14) Then Jesus ends the parable with the bone chilling phrase, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
What fools we mere mortals can be. Jesus is inviting all of us to the wedding feast of heaven. It would seem, to a rational mind, that we would be “crazy” not to accept such an invitation. But “many” do. The irony is, of course, that all of humanity is invited to the heavenly wedding feast, but “many” ignore, or refuse, or arrogantly disrespect the idea, or the One who is inviting them. We are all “chosen,” but how many of us “choose,” in return, to respond? We must pray, then, with our words and with our deeds that, poor as we are, we may be wise enough to humbly accept the transcendant gift that our loving God is so generously inviting us to partake in with Him, forever!