Isaiah 25:6-10; Philippians 4:12-14; Matthew 22:1-14
Do you remember how last week God lovingly prepared a vineyard on a fertile hillside? He dug the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted choice vines … built a tower, .. and dug a press…(Isaiah). What care God took! In fact God said: What could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done?
This week God lovingly prepares a marriage feast: a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines (Isaiah). What a feast! …my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready (Matthew).
Note that: Everything is ready! The vineyard is ready for the harvest and the feast is ready for the guests - and so God sends his servants.
Incredibly the tenants of the vineyard seized the servants: thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Those who were invited to the feast ignored the servants and some even thrashed and killed them.
Last week God asked for what was rightfully his and found himself rejected; this week he offers what is rightfully his to those he loves and finds himself contemptuously spurned.
Last week he was disobeyed; this week he is humiliated.
The marriage feast, of course, is the kingdom of heaven. The servants are the prophets, the greatest of whom is Jesus, and those who were invited are the Chosen people, represented particularly by their leaders.
The disconcerting question which baffles us is 'Why would they refuse?' Why would people so comprehensively, so completely and maliciously refuse to enter the Kingdom so lovingly prepared for them?
The Scriptures are littered, so to speak, with the sad memory of those who failed for all sorts of reasons to enter the Kingdom, beginning with Lucifer, the angel of light, and his demons.
The elder son in the parable of the prodigal son would not enter the feast because his pride was stung by his father's generosity to his wayward brother. It becomes clear that his relationship with the father had always been that of slave, rather than son. And since he was the more obedient 'slave' he felt he was worth more.
The five foolish virgins failed to enter because they had not taken the Kingdom seriously enough. They had not adequately appreciated the greatness of the gift and so had not adequately prepared. The door was shut in their faces.
The householder just fell asleep and the judgment which unexpectedly sneaked up on him like a thief, found him not ready.
Fornicators (those having sex outside marriage), adulterers (those having sex with someone else's husband or wife) or practising homosexuals, were found unfit for the Kingdom.
Those who hear the word of God but do not keep it will not be recognised by the Lord and will not gain entry into the Kingdom. When they knock on the door they will hear the Lord say, 'I do not know you.'
The goats, those who showed no love or mercy towards their neighbour, and consequently showed no love towards God, will be cast out into the darkness and not be permitted to enter the Kingdom.
Those who will not wear the wedding garment, in other words, those who lack the necessary dispositions for entering heaven will be cast out.
The busy, those preoccupied with worldly concerns, those who build their houses on the shifting materialistic sands of power, pleasure or possessions, who worship money rather than God, who try to 'save' their lives rather than 'losing' them in the service of the Lord are not worthy of the Lord and cannot enter the Kingdom.
Let us remember that the invitation God gives us is to the king's feast. We are invited to a wonderful communion with God and with each other. The Sunday Eucharist we celebrate on earth is a rehearsal for this eternal banquet. That is why it is so important. It is here, at each Mass, that we are slowly transformed and sanctified for the moment we are called to take our seats at the marriage feast in heaven. It is here, at each Mass, that we are strengthened to live the kind of life God looks for in us.
When we refuse God who has prepared a place for us in his house he does not punish us, we punish ourselves. We miss out on all he has made ready for us. We miss out on the 'party', the feast and have to spend eternity outside the Father's house, in the dark. That would be hell, wouldn't it?