Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dressed for a Wedding

In this week’s Gospel reading (Matt 22:1-14), our Lord continues the theme of Israel’s rejection of God and how the Kingdom is taken from them in the parable of the Wedding Banquet. In addition to some of the thoughts from last Sunday's Gospel reading  (Matt 21:33-43), today’s Gospel gives us a bit more food for mediation.

It is no coincidence that our Lord uses a marriage feast in this parable when He speaks about the salvation that He offers. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the marriage feast is used to refer to the Eucharist, either directly (e.g. Rev 19:7-9) or indirectly (e.g. Jn 2:1ff) – and it is in the Most Holy Eucharist that we most fully receive the salvation that our Lord Jesus offers us (Jn 6:53-55).

It is important to notice that the call to the Marriage Supper is a free call – because salvation is offered to anyone who comes to God asking, seeking, and knocking (Rev 22:17; Matt 7:7ff). But this is no “easy-believism” because salvation goes deeper than simply answering to an initial call. This is where the significance of the wedding garment comes in.

According to ancient custom, the host of the wedding would provide each of the wedding guests with a wedding garment. In this way, the wedding garment of Jesus’ parable refers to something that God gives to us so that we are worthy to participate in the Marriage Supper. However, according to St. John, in the Marriage Supper, the white garments that the Saints are clothed with are their own righteous deeds (Rev 19:8; it is also interesting to note that 19:9 bestows blessing upon those who are invited to the Marriage Supper, linking it back to Jesus’ parable). Furthermore, St. James tells us that faith without works is dead (Jms 2:26). This is exactly what our Lord Jesus is teaching in this parable when He speaks of the wedding garment. The person being reprimanded was certainly invited to the wedding, and he is even called “friend” (v 12). Although he accepted the invitation to the banquet, when he showed up he wasn’t dressed appropriately. And on this basis, he is actually cast out of the wedding banquet (v 13).

Tying this all together then, this should serve as a reminder to us that whilst the call of the Gospel is completely free – it requires more than a simple response of faith for salvation. The “more” that is required is a life of righteousness.  In other words, whilst we are certainly saved by our faith, we are not saved by faith alone. Rather, our faith needs to be accompanied by good works lest it be judged that our faith, albeit real, is actually dead.

And lest we grow proud in self-righteousness, we would always do well to remember that even our good works, although our own, are themselves a gift from God by His Holy Spirit working in and through us.

This means that our salvation – from start to finish – is completely and utterly a work of God’s grace (Eph 2:8-9). Which is why St. Paul admonishes us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who is at work within us who enables us to have the desire to do good...and then to fulfil that desire (Phil 2:12-13).

So, when we find ourselves struggling to obey God as we walk with Him, let us look to the example of the Saints who are already clothed in white garments; let us ask also for their intercession as we pray to God for His help; and let us trust that when we ask in faith, God will be faithful in responding by giving us a greater measure of His Holy Spirit.

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