What is the Kingdom of Heaven like? It is like a wedding banquet a king threw for his son.
Often it is helpful for us to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. So today I will try to weave together some of the various messages of Scripture that can inform our knowledge of this marriage of God’s Son and this wedding banquet.
Through the prophets, the Lord said of God’s people, “I passed by you and saw that you were now old enough for love. So I spread the corner of my cloak over you to cover your nakedness. I swore an oath to you and entered into covenant with you and you became mine. Then I cleansed you with water, washed away your blood and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with an embroidered gown, put leather sandals on your feet. I gave you a fine linen sash and silk robes to wear.”
Though human beings sometimes seek God, the truth is that God has always taught us first. God has loved us first and has desired to be in a relationship with us, a relationship as intimate and as binding as the marriage covenant of which it is said, “A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” And God says, additionally, through the prophets, “Your husband is your maker, the Lord of Hosts is his name, your Redeemer, the Holy one of Israel called God of all the Earth.”
This plan of God is amazing to consider. God who is as far above human beings as the heavens are above the earth, deigns and condescend to be joined in marriage to human beings. It is certainly not deserved, nor could it be reasonably requested or expected by human beings. But love is capable of acting in this way. God’s love for human beings brings about this marriage.
The problem that occurred with this marriage the first time around was infidelity. Weakness of the flesh and concupiscence overcame human beings. Whenever human beings are unfaithful, they are no longer comfortable with their spouse.They judge themselves and condemn themselves. They believe the other person would forsake them and cast them off. And they act on this belief, believing that they have been forsaken. And so they become grieved in spirit as they separate themselves from God.
But though they be unfaithful, God always remains faithful. So seeing this problem, God persevered in loving, saying through the prophets, “I will forgive their iniquity and no longer remember their sin.” The Lord called back his people and said, “I will make a new covenant with my people. I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts. Everyone, from least to greatest, shall know me.” It seems that God understood the problem the first time was that people did not know he loved them. God was not in their hearts.
They did not love God. So in the New Marriage covenant, God will remedy all of those deficiencies. He will make it possible to know God, and, by keeping and pondering God in our hearts, to love God truly. For the more we ponder God’s Word in our hearts, the more our hearts will become the image of God’s Word and the more we will love him.
So in the fullness of time, God sent the Son, incarnate, fully human, to be more easily accessible to us, for us to know and to love.
Christ, in the new and everlasting marriage covenant, becomes the bridegroom of the church. His bride, as Saint Paul writes, is the church. “I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” And again, Saint Paul says, “As a husband loves his wife, Christ loves the church, and hands himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word that he might present to himself the church in splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” He who loves his wife loves himself, we are told.
So it is that Christ loves the church, for “no one hates his own flesh, but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church. Because we are members of this body, Christ is head of the church, Christ is the Savior of the body. So as a husband and wife no longer belong to themselves, but instead belong to each other.”
So human marriage, it turns out, is merely a sign, an anticipation of Christ’s eternal relationship with the church, with us. And for those who have accepted the invitation, the two have become one flesh, never to be separated by God or human being. So then the Book of Revelation can say that “the wedding day of the Lamb has come. His bride has made herself ready. And the angel said, ‘Write this. Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding Feast of the LAMB.’”
How fortunate it is for the bride to be in this marriage, for this fulfillment of God’s plan is the source of never-ending joy for human beings. At the wedding feast the great multitude cry out, “Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory.”
At this wedding banquet and through this marriage, the Lord God wipes away the tears from every face, removes the reproach of His people from the whole earth and destroys death forever. It is to this wedding feast that the King in today’s parable issues his invitations. And now we understand that the people he is inviting are not just meant to be guests but are participants in the marriage itself.
The people invited are the bride of his son. This then is the tragedy of what is described in today’s parable by Jesus, in which there are two distressing groups.
First, there are those who have been invited but refuse to come. They prefer the temporary business and transactions of the world over an eternal relationship and union with God. They prefer the anxieties, the uncertainty and the superficiality of the world to the eternal peace, beatitude and fullness of God.
And second, there are those who come at the invitation, but then make no preparations for their wedding. They do not put on their wedding garment of love and righteous deeds, described when hear it said, “You had been told what is good and what the Lord requires of you to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
The consequences for both of these groups who reject God, each in their own way, is not good. The end of human beings apart from God, is destruction, enslavement, being bound hand and foot, darkness, and wailing, for God is the source of good things: life, freedom, light and joy. And apart from God, people will not have them.
The parable ends on a somber note. Many are invited, but few are chosen. For us, we have come here today to the wedding feast of the Lamb. This Eucharist is a timeless moment: the one eternal Mass. The heavenly banquet is already present, just not yet fully revealed to our senses. May the grace we receive allow us to strive increasingly to wear our wedding garment with faithfulness and love for God.
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