Come to the banquet!
The papers this week reported on an international survey of 23 countries and 17,000 people. On average, 740 people in all countries were polled. On that basis, 740 of the Australian population were respondents. The general conclusion was that “Australians are tolerant of, if negative on, religion.” Faith and faiths are receiving bad press at the moment, ours included, yet our works, hospitals, aged care, schools, Vinnies etc. are busier than ever. The banquet parable arrives at a most appropriate time.
This parable of the wedding feast is an outline of the desire of God for all people. It is obviously written from a Christian perspective, one honed by Matthew’s experience in his work post-resurrection. We often call this teaching “a reflection on the gift of salvation”, something a little unexpected, and perhaps offering another understanding of the God of love and mercy. Given the culture in which it was first delivered and the experience of Matthew and his community, it offers another side of the frequently described “God of punishment” of parts of the Old Testament.
The banquet image of the Kingdom of God or of heaven, is not exclusively New Testament. Witness the first reading today. Matthew is reminding the Chief Priests and elders that God issues the invitation, not them, and he suggests if they had listened, Jerusalem may not have been destroyed in 70 AD.
In view of the seeming breakdown of social cohesion and the moves to dethrone God and faith from our public discussion, it might be time for us to remind the world that God loves all; tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes, as described in Jesus’ day, and we, in our day, need to review how we relate to the recently released prisoner, the young grappling with addiction issues, those battling with gender issues, and the challenges associated with mixed race marriages, to name a few.
All are called.
But, and a big but,
an appropriate response is necessary.
Find the appropriate jumper!