The Joy of the Kingdom
Twenty-eighth Sunday of the year. Fr David Goodill OP invites us to accept our poverty.
In the song ‘Sweet and Dandy’, Toots and the Maytals draw a vivid picture of everyday life in Jamaica back in the 1960s. The song describes the wedding of a young couple, the tears of the young bridge and the nervousness of the young bridegroom. This is no celebration of the rich to grace the pages of a glossy magazine, yet in a few lines we are given a picture of hope and joy. There is no doubt that hard times lay ahead for this couple, but there is also a celebration of life and the love which will bind them throughout their lives.
In today’s Gospel we are given a very different picture of a wedding feast. A sumptuous banquet is given by a king for his son’s wedding, yet the invited guests ignore the invitation and, when asked a second time, some go off to look after their own affairs, while others seize the king’s servants and kill them. Why do they do this? They have everything to gain and nothing to lose by attending the wedding banquet. In this sense, their behaviour, like all sinful behaviour, is irrational and to understand why any one of them refuses the invitation we need to examine how and why they go wrong in their reasoning.
Perhaps they have not understood what is being offered. In the parable, however, there is no suggestion of such a misunderstanding, and the second invitation makes it clear that this is no ordinary feast. Another mistake would be to believe that the king has ulterior motives for the feast, but again there is no evidence that they suspect the king of duplicity. Where they go wrong is in thinking that they have something more important to do than attend the feast. Yet whatever they have to do it cannot be compared to the joy they are offered. In their own minds these people are rich and important, yet they are foolish and poor seen in the true light of God’s wisdom.
The Jamaican wedding described by the Maytals has no pretentions. The people are poor, but because they have so little, the little that they have is readily shared. This is not to romanticise what are hard lives, but it should make us question our own priorities. What prevents me from answering God’s invitation to the wedding feast? The more we have, the less receptive we become to his call in our lives and this is having a devastating effect on our relationships. This is the other side of the parable. Those who refuse the invitation go their separate ways, and the only common purpose remaining is to persecute the king’s servants. It is no surprise that we are increasingly isolated and lonely, and that the dominant form of discourse is condemnation.
Weddings can be used to showcase power and wealth, but in their essence they are great levellers. From the richest to the poorest the same commitment is made, and those who come to support the couple have the same responsibilities. The joy of a wedding feast is not increased by lavishing great wealth, but is in the love and commitment of this couple, celebrated and supported by those who love them. Marriages should unite us together, and the unity of the man and woman provides the basis for the unity of human society, a unity which would come to an end without the birth of children, for rich and poor alike. It is this we celebrate, it is this that brings hope and joy. Our heavenly Father’s marriage feast, the marriage feast of the lamb, unites us to Him through His son in the love which is the Holy Spirit. This is the greatest of levellers. We each must accept our own poverty, our total need for his healing and sanctifying gifts of grace, allowing Him to clothe us in the garments of salvation, enabling us to merit the glory of heaven. Then at the end of this life, when we face death, that other great leveller, with our hope fulfilled we will enter fully into the joy of God’s wedding feast: sweet and dandy.