Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (15 October)

Our Gospel passage for today comes from Matthew, Chapter 22

Set in the context of Matthew’s continuing critical conversation with the chief priests and Pharisees, the parable of the Wedding Banquet is a summary account of a central theological teaching found in all of Scripture. Our Gospel today illustrates the subtle interrelation of the grace of election, of God’s will to have a people, and the consequential obligation of obedience, of faithful and grateful response. This interrelation is close to the heart of the dynamic mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the second of two parables in which Jesus teaches his audience to expect the rigorous judgment that awaits those who decline God’s persistent invitation to kingdom ethics. Last week’s parable has brought his listeners to the point of alarm at the prospect of being held ultimately responsible for Israel’s history of rejecting the prophetic bearers of those invitations. If last week’s story insists that its audience be held accountable for the patterns of the past, Jesus now directs attention unmistakably toward the future. In telling his second story, Matthew takes a step deeper into allegory with a more exaggerated set of circumstances. Through this parable is Jesus saying what the kingdom of heaven is like: expected guests are absent, and the most unlikely ones are present. Earlier in Matthew 8: 11–12, Jesus responds to a Gentile’s faith with this prediction that many will come from the east and west and will eat in the kingdom of heaven. This parable, like the two previous ones, repeats the main points being that the Jewish leaders stand under judgment and outsiders become insiders. Gospel living only begins with the invitation. It cannot remain a mere idea. Though many have been called, the ones who are to be chosen are those who are living in a new way – who have put on life in Christ. The judgment that falls on the Church is equivalent to the judgment that falls on the Jewish leaders, leaving Matthew’s hearers, and all who follow after, to locate themselves within the parable. Are we among the ‘few’, or among the ‘many’? Ultimately, God is the only one who will judge our standing, and that of our neighbour.