What wedding season can teach us about the kingdom of God
A Reflection for Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
“He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’”
As someone in my mid-20s, I am entering the proverbial “wedding season” of life. One of my closest friends recently became engaged, and it feels like the floodgates are about to open: engagement celebrations, bachelor parties, weddings, destination weddings, post-Covid wedding celebrations and who knows what else.
Thinking about these upcoming celebrations (and their undoubtedly high toll on my bank account) I feel some sympathy for the man in today’s Gospel reading who is confronted by the king. “‘My friend,’” says the king, “‘how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’” The man does not respond, but I can think of some answers for him. Maybe money is tight, and he didn’t want to spring for a nice outfit. Maybe he went to three weddings in the past month and, quite frankly, this one wasn’t so high on the priority list. Or maybe the understaffed airline lost his luggage, and all he had was the t-shirt he wore on the plane.
Presence—full, joyful presence—is one of the great gifts we can give in friendship. It is the same in our relationship with God.
The king, however, has no sympathy for him and throws him out of the party. I find this to be a challenging detail—what is Jesus trying to teach us about the kingdom of God? Shouldn’t all be welcome at this feast?
Another of Jesus’ parables may be helpful in grappling with this tension. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt 13:44).
In other words, some things are so important that they demand more from us than half-hearted attendance. Despite my earlier complaining, I will be immensely happy to celebrate weddings with my friends in years to come. Presence—full, joyful presence—is one of the great gifts we can give in friendship. It is the same in our relationship with God. God offers us a place in his kingdom of love and asks that we meet the invitation with a simple but honest presence and attention.
Like the man in the parable, all are invited to God’s feast. But we pray for the grace to take the invitation seriously, learning each day to be more present at this joyful table.