Thursday 18 August 2022 Week 20 in Ordinary Time
The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord – it is the Lord who speaks – when I display my holiness for your sake before their eyes. Then I am going to take you from among the nations and gather you together from all the foreign countries, and bring you home to your own land. I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God.’
Psalm 50(51): I shall pour clean water over you and all your sins will be washed away.
Jesus began to speak to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next, he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He dispatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So, these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests, he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’
In Jeremiah God’s promise to his people is to bring a new covenant, by writing the law upon their hearts. And then “You will be my people and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 31)
Here, Ezekiel goes a step further, “I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead.” God’s promise often finds reiteration during times of exile, when the suffering of the people breaks their hearts and brings about a deeper conversion towards their God.
The parables of today’s Gospel from Matthew remind us of this same promise.
The wedding banquet is a metaphor for sharing in the fullness of joy that comes with the “sacred spiritual union” – a frequent metaphor in scripture and mysticism. Those whose hearts are hardened against the King and do not want to join in this wedding banquet are destroyed. Some scholars regard this as an allusion by Matthew to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, a consequence of the hardness of heart of the people towards their God’s generosity in Jesus Christ.
A wedding garment is a Jewish image for works of generosity expected of all Jews. As the man comes lacking that basic generosity, he has no place in the celebration of joy.
Let us pray for a deep conversion to the generosity of God in our lives, so to live in the promise, and to celebrate the banquet of joy.