The Antiques Road Show is brilliant. Trying to guess the current value of something old is great fun in my house. It’s funny how we seem to like old things. From a global perspective, it sometimes seems that we defend, shelter and protect them with more care than we have for the people living with us. The same is true of the ‘deposit of faith’. We love and cherish and protect it. Any talk that God may be revising ancient agreements is suspect. The guardians of truth don’t like new claims. The big stuff happened long ago and far away. With this mindset, the arrival of an invitation to a wedding feast where God is about to do something new, might not be well received.
The Kingdom of Heaven is an experience. A special moment has arrived, and we are invited to be part of it. Something never seen before is unfolding before our eyes. God is here and we find on our doorstep and invitation to a wedding feast. The religious leaders politely refuse to go. Some of them not so politely! Now, a select guest list becomes indiscriminate. The main roads carry universal traffic. There is no ethnic, gender, age or moral requirement. The wedding of the Son is a beggar’s feast. A gathering of those who accept the invitation. But a great surprise awaits them. They were not invited to witness a wedding but to be married to the Son. The garment they wear signals their readiness to understand and act on the teachings of Jesus. They must marry the revelation and bear the children of Justice, Compassion and Love in the world. If they do not do this, they are reduced to silence. They cannot remain at the feast for this is a wedding only for those who want to be married.
A story that began as a cautionary tale to the leadership of Israel now ends as one to us. Belonging is important but it is only the first step. Each one has to take seriously the task of growing in our understanding of the teachings of Jesus. Hearing is a beginning but just hearing is a fatal end. Hearing must be followed by understanding and understanding must be followed by action. As Jesus himself states in John 13:17 ‘ If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.’
In the end it comes to this. The Beloved Son of God asks us to marry him. As in all such moments, timing is crucial. The moment to go deeper, the moment to touch the heart of God, the moment to fall in love, comes to different people at different times. Some are drawn when they are very young, some in midlife, some in older age. Some arrive at the wedding on the back of a huge failure, some in gratitude for some blessing. Some come only after death has knocked at their door and taken away someone who shared their table. It would be too easy to say that eventually everyone will find their wedding garment. But it would be too cynical to say that some might not. We are all Christians, but the timetable of our lives is not the same. If home is a place that when you go, they have to take you in, the Christian community is a place that welcomes you when you are ready for more.
I don’t know about you, but for me the story of the wedding feast is the story of an open invitation, and this is more important pastorally than the wedding garment. Saint Matthew, lover of dual endings might not agree. But it is clear that all are invited. Good and bad alike. But good and bad are strange designations. What do they mean to those who know themselves well? Still, the Beloved Son of God finds us desirable. Even if we did not come with a wedding garment, the groom has one for us and He has chosen it with great love.