When was the last time you received a wedding invitation and had to fill in the blanks – will attend – will not attend – number attending – your choice of food? You would never think of showing up at a wedding reception without being invited.
The big thing about this gospel story is that it is all about being invited and how people responded to their invitation. The king invited those of his own class to be guests at his son’s wedding. We know their responses. They were too busy, had more important things to do, or they couldn’t care less about this wedding. Some responded to the invitation with violence. But the king was determined his son would have a wedding feast so he sent his servants out to the highways and byways and they bring back men and women who were total strangers, people who felt so out of place, so uncomfortable in a king’s palace, but people who would not pass up the chance of a good meal.
I would imagine their table manners left much to be desired. I remember sitting with the parents of the bride at a wedding reception and the father of the bride came from the receiving line. The table was set with all the correct knives, forks and spoons. He picked up a knife, a fork and a spoon and had the waiter take away the rest. His comment was ‘class always shows, even when it’s third.’
The end of the today’s gospel story is so strange. There is a guest without a wedding garment who can offer no explanation for being so. He is unceremoniously thrown out. Hard to understand. I read an interesting idea about this lack of a wedding garment. All those present had been invited to the feast. They were guests who were surprised at being so lucky to be invited. They knew they had no right to be there. Their invitation came as a big shock. This writer suggested that maybe the wedding garment was more an attitude of mind rather than something the guests were expected to wear. He suggests that this person might not have been acting as one invited, a grateful guest, but rather as one entitled to be there. His attitude was ‘I have a right to be here, I deserve to be here.’ He was not wearing the garment of gratitude the others guests were wearing.
We are all invited to the banquet of life and love Christ has prepared for all of us. We are a graced people, a gifted people. Before the world began God chose us in Christ to be his adopted sons and daughters. God’s love for us was freely given when God loved the world so much He sent His Son to the world, not to condemn the world but to embrace the world, to embrace our human condition. That love was freely given when Christ laid down his life for us.
We are gifted with life, health, family, friends, employment, faith and so many other gifts. Even if some of these gifts are lacking we may be gifted with the strength and patience we need to deal with that lack. We have it all wrong when we imagine that we are entitled to these blessings. As St. Paul reminded some of the people in the community of Corinth: “what have you that you have not received and if you have received it why do you act as if you had not received it?” Paul would not have known the word ‘entitled’ but that’s what he was talking about.
Every day we are invited into the life and love of God – as it was so then, so it is now – we can be too busy, too pre-occupied with other things, we can be totally uninterested to accept God’s gracious invitation. We all know people who live life as if God did not exist, people who presume on the gifts of God, the graciousness of God, people who are not wearing the garment of gratitude.
Tomorrow we will celebrate our Canadian thanksgiving. When we stop to think of it, every day should be a day of thanksgiving. The Mass is our greatest prayer of thanksgiving. It is right to give God thanks and praise. As one of the saints said, “if our only prayer was ‘thank you’ that would be enough.”
As we continue to celebrate this Mass, the great prayer of thanksgiving, we pray for ourselves and for each other that we begin each day by putting on a garment of gratitude and live each day in an attitude of gratitude.