Twenty-Eighth Sunday, Year A, 15 October, 2023: Isaiah 25:6-10a; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14
Matthew’s version of this parable probably elaborates Jesus’ original teaching, more accurately reported in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 14:16-24). Matthew has added the details of the king, the king’s son, the abuse of the king’s messengers and the king’s vengeance, as well as the guest who is improperly dressed.
But Matthew and his community were Jewish and still reeling from the savage destruction of Jerusalem as well as the failure of Jesus’ proclamation to the majority of their co-religionists.
But it is also important to recall that a parable is neither an allegory nor a theological reflection. It is a simile drawing on what we know to communicate something beyond our everyday knowing.
An allegory could understand the King as God the Father, the King’s son as Jesus and the messengers as the prophets, as if they were ciphers of a coded message; but a parable conveys the “taste” of an experience. A parable is not a theological reflection on God, though it may reflect how we imagine God. As such, its narrative does not necessarily provide accurate information about God, in this case, how Matthew makes sense of the annihilation of Jerusalem as divine vengeance.
After the events of the past week in Gaza, I can’t hear that without recoiling in horror. But Matthew is fumbling to explain events he hoped would never happen: the destruction of the Temple, God’s presence among his people—along with the priesthood, the Passover pilgrims trapped in the city, the women and children seeking sanctuary on the Temple Mount, virtually all the city’s resident; and the lukewarm reception of Jesus’ message by his own people.
Rightly, the first reading today underlines the overwhelming bounty of the Gospel’s banquet offered to all people, Jews and gentiles.
I suggest that the pertinent question is not what will happen to those who ignore the invitation but what blinds me to that invitation? Why might I see this invitation opposed to what I hold dear? Do I fear losing my good should I accept God’s invitation? Can I hold lightly the blessings God sends and pass through them to find God? Or do I give them a priority they do not deserve?