(Matthew 22: 2-14)
With the Parable we heard in today’s Gospel, Jesus presents us with some impressive images of how God acts to draw people to the joy of His Kingdom, and what the response of different types of people are.
God the Father is likened to a King, Who is preparing the marriage of His Son; His Only-begotten Son, who became man, like us in all things except for sin. Who is the bride? The Church, who is made up of all who love Christ, received Holy Baptism, and want to become one with Him (see Revelation 21:2). Who are the emissaries of the King, who are rushing to call people to the marriage feast, in order to have a relationship with Him? The Prophets of God, the Holy Apostles, and all who continue their sacred work in inviting people to the Church. And who are the guests being called to this royal marriage? Firstly, it was the Israelites, who for centuries enjoyed the prosperity God provided, and boasted that they were His chosen people. When they were invited to come to the marriage, IE to believe in Christ, to love Him and to join Him as members of His Church, what did they do? Not only did they disbelieve, but some arrested the King’s envoys and abused them and killed them (We know the persecutions and martyrdom that the Prophets of God and the Holy Apostles had suffered from the Jews). The consequence of this terrible behavior was- as the Parable says- to punish the murders of the emissaries of the King and set fire to their city. This was fulfilled a few years later, when the Roman General Titus, with his troops completely destroyed Jerusalem, dispersing the scattered Israeli nation.
But the King of the Parable insisted on having many guests at the wedding, and again sent His servants to go everywhere and call to the marriage feast anyone who could be found in front of them, regardless of whether they were good or bad. We understand this to mean that all people, with no exceptions are invited by God to His Church. So the King’s palace became filled with guests, who enjoyed the rich meal of the royal wedding.
The Parable ends with an incident which is of particular interest to each of us: The King wanted to communicate with those present, to see them personally, and express His joy at their coming to the wedding of His Son (Do we not see how God the Father does the same? He wants to be in constant contact with each of us, those who are members of His Church). At some point, the King sees someone who is wearing clothes unsuitable for a royal wedding and says to him: “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment? And he was speechless” (verse 12). He had no excuse, as the King did not require the guests to buy expensive clothes proper for a royal wedding. Poor people most of all, would not have been able to buy them. The King himself had prepared the right garments for all, but this man did not care. He disregarded the others who wore what was provided, and entered the King’s palace with his own old and dirty clothes.
Who is this man in the Lord’s Parable? It is obvious that the Lord means those who initially accept Him and His Church where they join God, but they are not interested in keeping their soul pure from sin by repentance and confession. The Apostle Paul makes this issue clear: “Do not be deceived; Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10).
It is expressed well in the Exaposteilarion we chant in the Service for Holy Monday: “I see Your Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment, that I may enter therein.” And in the last Troparia before Holy Communion, we say: “If I dare to enter the bridal chamber, my clothing betrays me, for it is not a wedding garment.”
It is not enough for the garment of our soul to be simply pure, but it must also be adorned with virtues, with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That’s why the Exaposteilarion that we mentioned before finishes with this: “O Giver of Light, make radiant the vesture of my soul, and save me.”
My brothers and sisters, it is a great honor for us that God the Father invites us to participate in the joy of the “royal marriage.” Of course, this joy will be complete after the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can feel His joy now and in the future, with proper preparation, whenever we receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ with Holy Communion at Divine Liturgy. Therefore, when we are preparing for Holy Communion, let us ask: “Master, Lord Jesus Christ our God…make me worthy receive your divine, glorious, pure and life giving mysteries…for purification and sanctification and as a pledge of the life and kingdom to come” (Prayer of St. John of Damascus).
May we come to the Divine Communion with a proper garment of the soul, to feel the joy of the Kingdom of God! Amen.