Weddings are important events for us in this country.  For the ones getting married, it is a fulfillment of dreams. For the families of the couples, and for their friends too, it is a cause for celebration.  This celebration is surrounded by a lot of traditional and cultural elements – and yes, also, silly superstitions. That is why weddings draw a lot of people. In our mind, it is meant to be celebrated with loved ones. 

Not to be invited to a wedding is a great insult. It means an exclusion from the circle of important people in the lives of the couple.  And to be invited but to miss the occasion is also a great offense to the bride and groom.  Once I failed to attend the wedding of one of my cousins due to a pressing priestly responsibility.  For years, my cousin never talked to me.  She only did so last year, when she needed to borrow some money from me!

Our gospel today recounts Jesus using the image of a celebration, a wedding reception or feast to describe the Kingdom of God.  From the heart of God issues forth invitations for all.  He wants his feast to be full of people he considers important to him.  God is a God of joy and we are invited to his joy, which is what the wedding feast represents in the scriptural reading.

So the problem here is not a lack or unwillingness by the host to invite.  In fact, he expends his energy in having his servants go to the streets to invite all who care to listen.  The real problem posed by the parable is the unexplainable indifference of people.  Given the enthusiasm of the king to bring together his friends, to gather them for the feast, it is unimaginable that many of the invited do not take interest in the affair at all.  The problem is not in the issuance of invitation. It is in the refusal to honor the invitation.

This is indeed a great paradox and mystery. God desires to have everyone partake in his feast but he could not force anyone into it.  He could only invite because he is a God of freedom and he bestows freedom to every person on earth, even the freedom to refuse his generosity and love.

Today the feast of the Kingdom comes to us through the sacrament of the Eucharist.  This is God’s banquet, his wedding reception.  That is why all the elements of a party are present in the Eucharist – songs, dialogues, eating and drinking, listening and talking, greeting of one another.  For all the beauty of the Eucharist, how many people truly understand the Eucharist so as to be excited to partake of it every week?  How many of us who attend are not motivated by fear or compulsion but real rejoicing in being here?

Jesus shows us that it is not a matter of being punished for not being there.  The imagery of violent penalty for those who did not attend the wedding party must be understood in another context.  Rather, Jesus is making clear to us that if we do not pay attention to the invitation, we will miss a lot.  We will miss out on the joy, the abundance, the blessings God intends for us.

May we begin to see the Eucharist as our joyful encounter with the Father who loves us and with the Son who shares with us his very self.  May the gospel enlighten our minds and hearts to the real meaning of this feast.