THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING FEAST
1. And Jesus answered and spake unto them again in parables, and said, The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again he sent forth other servants saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, slew them. But when the king heard thereof he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which are bidden were not worthy Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So the servants went out into the highways, and gathered together as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how comest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for many were called, but few are chosen (Matthew, 22:1-14).
2. Those who are incredulous laugh at this parable, which seems to them to be childishly ingenuous, because they are unable to understand that there could be so many difficulties in going to participate in a feast and, even more so, that the guests would resist the invitation to such a point as to massacre those who had been sent to them by the master of the house. "Parables," say the incredulous, "beyond doubt are figurative, but nevertheless it is not necessary to ultra-pass the limits of plausibility."
The same may be said about allegories or ingenious fables if their respective outer coverings are not removed so as to find their hidden meaning. Jesus composed His allegories from the most common of everyday occurances and customs and then adapted these to the characters of the people to whom He talked. The vast majority of these allegories had as their objective the penetration into the minds of the masses of the idea of a spiritual life. Many appear to be unintelligible merely because those who listen do not look at them from this point of view.
In this parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven, where everything is happiness and good fortune, to a feast. When referring to the first guests to be invited He alludes to the Hebrews, who were the earliest peoples to be called by God to know His law. Those sent by the king are the prophets who came to advise them to follow the road of true happiness. However, their words were hardly listened to and their warnings were disregarded; many were massacred, like those in the parable. The guests who declined the invitation with excuses of having to look after their pastures and their businesses symbolize those worldly people who, being absorbed in terrestrial matters, remain indifferent to the things of Heaven.
It was common belief amongst the Jews of those times that their nation had to achieve supremacy above all others. In effect, didn't God promise Abraham that his posterity would cover the face of the Earth? But as always, they paid attention only to form and not substance, believing it meant actual material domination.
Before the coming of Christ all peoples, with the exception of the Jews, were idol worshippers and polytheistics. If a few people, superior to the vast masses, conceived the idea of a unique God, that idea remained only as a personal belief. Nowhere was it received as a fundamental idea, except perhaps by a few initiates who hid their knowledge under a veil of mystery, impenetrable to the masses. The Hebrews were the first to publicly practise monotheism and it was to them that God transmitted His Law, firstly through Moses and later through Jesus. From this tiny focal point the light, which was destined to spread throughout the whole world, went forth to triumph over paganism and to give Abraham a spiritual posterity "as numerous as the stars that fill the skies." Nevertheless, having completely abandoned idol worship, the Jews scorned the moral law and persisted in the practise of an external cult which was easier. Evil came to a head and the nation was destroyed, enslaved and divided into sects; incredulity reached even the sanctuary. It was at this point that Jesus appeared, having been sent to call them to keep the Law and to open up new horizons of a future life. Having been the first to be invited to the great banquet of universal faith, they rejected the words of the Celestial Messiah and sacrificed Him. In this manner they lost the rewards which should have been reaped from their own initiatives.
Nevertheless, it would be unjust to accuse the entire population for this state of affairs. The main responsibility rests with the Pharisees and Saducees who sacrificed the nation through the pride and fanaticism of some, and the incredulity of others. Therefore it is these, above all others, whom Jesus identified among those guests who refused to appear at the wedding feast. He then added that on seeing their refusal, the master of the house told his servants to go out into the highways and gather all those they could find, good and bad. Jesus was saying in this manner that the Word would be preached to all the other peoples, pagans and idol worshippers, and that these on accepting it would be admitted to the feast in place of the initial guests.
But it is not enough to be invited; it is not enough to say you are a Christian; nor to sit at the table in order to take part in the celestial banquet; before all else it is essential, as an express condition, to be clothed in the nuptial tunic, that is to say to be pure of heart and to comply with the spirit of the law. But although all the law is contained in the words: without charity there is no salvation, amongst all those who hear the divine Word there are so few who keep it and make good use of it! So few become worthy to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven! This is why Jesus said: “There will be many who are called, however, few will be chosen.”