“Come!” Is there any word more beautiful, any invitation more powerful, especially when spoken from the mouth of Infinite Love? “Come! Everything is ready… everything’s been prepared for you; now come and enjoy!” Our Lord’s parable in today’s Gospel is meant to awaken within us a hunger for our common destiny, to draw out our deepest yearnings to be embraced by Perfect Love. Isaiah catches a glimpse of that destiny in the first reading as he tells of the rich feast, which the Lord will provide for all peoples. His eyes widened, his appetite tantalized at the vision, the delights of the feast almost beguile him into a food-hypnosis as he reiterates, “juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” Jesus plays upon this image in the Gospel and completes the picture by likening God to a provident Father who meticulously prepares a lavish wedding feast for His only-begotten Son. The invitation to both feasts becomes iconic of God’s prodigality toward us, His sheer generosity in inviting us to share in the celestial euphoria of His own blessed life. “Come,” he repeats. “Everything is ready. Now enjoy!”
Even more egregious, then, is the flat-out refusal, the cold indifference that has become the tragic inheritance of the human heart so wounded by original sin. To God’s generous invitation, we callously utter a disinterested, “Thanks but no thanks!” The Gospel pointedly diagnoses our tendency to prioritize activity over receptivity, most especially in things spiritual. One returns to his farm, another to his business. If St. John Paul II describes original sin as a denial of fatherhood, this parable vividly confirms that insight. God wants to lavish His joy upon us as any good father would, and yet we prefer to toil in trying to create it for ourselves, even to the point of violence when something inconveniences us or deters us from our own plans. The Father’s food grows cold on the dining room table as we stubbornly run to the local 7 Eleven to pick up a lukewarm hotdog on a stale bun, sometimes even cursing Him and slamming the door on the way out.
But God in His stubborn goodness uses rejection to become the occasion for inclusion of the whole world: “Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” The wedding feast becomes reminiscent of those dinners that Jesus shares in the homes of tax collectors and prostitutes, the wicked gathered around the table together with the just. The Lord gladly reveals Himself to anyone who is capable of getting in touch with that primordial hunger that they have, the awareness of their utter dependence on God. “Everything has been prepared,” he repeats. “Now come!” And the hall was filled with guests. The image serves as a poignant reminder to those who would justify themselves that no one is excluded from the invitation to enjoy God’s love.
Yet we ought not neglect the final scene of the Gospel. “Come, enjoy,” yes, but do not come unprepared. The man who enters the hall without the wedding garment quickly learns that the invitation alone is not enough in itself. “What do we think is meant by the wedding garment?” asks St. Gregory the Great. “For if we say it is baptism or faith, is there anyone who has entered this marriage feast without them?” Those first responses are the marks of our receptivity, our heeding of God’s invitation. But mere entrance to the feast is not yet relishing in its delights. St. Gregory suggests, “What then must we understand by the wedding garment but love?” Surely charity is the crowning of faith and baptism, the deepest form that gives meaning to our lives. We come to the feast by baptism, but we don’t enjoy the feast unless we are clothed in charity. Only charity can echo the infinite charity of God, who spent Himself completely in preparing the banquet. And in clothing ourselves in the garment of charity, we suddenly see clearly that we are not only invited guests at a party; we discover that we are actually the bride, for whom God has spent Himself, and given to us the greatest gift of all, the Bridegroom Christ, His Son.
Fr. Robert Krueger is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He currently at St. Bede the Venerable parish in Chicago. He has attended TOB I, TOB II, and the TOB & Priestly Identity Retreat-Seminar.