28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
My Grandfather who read the Bible a lot was always asking what things stood for. Who was the King, what was the wedding feast, what was the white garment; and whilst the symbolic meaning of Jesus’ parables is only one aspect is in an important aspect – because nothing Our Lord says should ever be neglected. So it is fascinating to look at what Christian writers have said about our Lord’s parables from the very first centuries.
The wedding feast for example stands, they say, for the Church on Earth and for the eternal Supper of the Lamb in Heaven. Others point out that it is the Father who prepares the feast for the Son, in other words God the Father joins the Divine Nature of God the Son to a Human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin and thus the wedding feast celebrates the Incarnation, God becoming Man, at the same time it is the joining of Christ the Saviour to the Church by which the Church becomes one body with Christ. Again still it is the union of Christ with each of us by which we grow in grace.
However this union is refused or not accepted by the chosen people, by those to whom Our Lord first preaches the Kingdom. They are too caught up in earthly pursuits, farming, business, making money, indeed they kill the messengers, for which we can read the prophets, and finally they kill Jesus himself.
The anger of the King which is expressed by his ‘destroying those murderers and burning their town’ was seen by some writers as a prophesy of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans under the Emperor Titus in the year 70 when he massacred the population, destroyed the temple and burnt Jerusalem.
So after the first to be invited refuse the King sends out his apostles to preach to everyone everywhere. All are called to the wedding feast; all are called to the Church, good and bad. That in itself is a useful reminder that on this earth the Wedding Feast, which is the Church, is composed of good and bad people. The tension that that causes is only resolved at the judgement, that moment when in the parable the King comes to look at the guests. That look is a gazing into the soul a consideration of the truth of each guest.
So what is the wedding garment? The writers give a number of answers. It is a ‘new life’ appropriate to the feast, it is charity which must cloth all our actions, it is the image of Christ which we must wear, it is the grace of the Holy Spirit, it is faithfulness to the commandments and the teachings of Christ and his church. Anything without which we cannot stay in the Kingdom.
Extracting the symbolic meaning of the parables is not to extract the only meaning but it is a useful way of meditating upon the word of God and applying it to history, to our lives and to the future.