Today weddings are much simpler than before, when entire villages and even distant relatives were “expected” to join without formal invitations. Then when neighbors or relatives fail to show up, the hosts feel slighted. Now people will hesitate to come uninvited since there is a fixed guest list that is normally limited to the closest family and friends. 

The Gospel today (Mt 22) portrays the Kingdom of God with the imagery of a lavish, rural, open banquet of ancient times. The king sends his messengers to fetch his guests. He feels bad that some cannot come and even resorts to punishment for their failure to show up. Then he invites just about anybody he can find. When finally the banquet starts, the king notices those who are not dressed up for the occasion. These too, he punishes.

The parable depicts the resistance of the people to the king’s invitation to the feast, either through non-attendance or through non-preparedness for the occasion. The wedding is grand, overflowing with food and drink, complete with opportunities for enjoyment and merriment. But the questions we can ask are these: Why did the people ignore the generous feast? Why did some of the guests come unsuitably dressed?

As Catholics, we are offered the feast of God’s Kingdom in our Sunday Eucharist. Every Mass is God’s wedding feast for his Son. The doors of the Kingdom are flung open and all are invited. But like the parable, we see Catholics all over the place on Sundays, except in church. Compare the number of people in our Mass today with the multitudes of Catholics in malls, shopping centers, gyms, movie theatres and amusement parks. Truly, a lot of us contentedly carry the name Catholic without feeling the need to express our faith through prayer and communal worship.

And then look at the people inside the church. Many are here because we forced to be here either by habit or tradition or fear of committing mortal sin, or because we have been dragged here by spouse, parent, or school requirement. Like those who are not dressed properly for the king’s banquet, many of those who attend Mass are not properly disposed. Listen to your thoughts as you go through the Mass: Where will I go after Mass? What will I eat for lunch? This Mass is taking too long. I’m bored to death. I just want to go out and text my friend!

While we pray that those who are not here will one day show up and love the Mass, let us focus on our reasons and dispositions for being here. May we value the Eucharist and truly experience it as our weekly encounter with the Lord in his great feast! Let’s party with the Lord!