There are many layers to this week’s parable. Like last week’s, it is addressed first to the religious leaders of the time. Jesus wants them to see how they are like the guests who were invited to wedding feast of the king’s son but failed to see what was on offer. God was inviting them to take part in the great feast of salvation, but they were too caught up in their own affairs to be interested. Some would go so far as to kill the messenger, Jesus himself, and suffer dreadful consequences.
God’s kingdom will not wait: if those who were invited first won’t come, the doors must be thrown open. Now everyone is invited, good and bad alike. Salvation is not just for the Jews, but for the whole world. The parable blows away the idea that God only invites certain people to rejoice in his goodness and love. But there is a sting in its tail. Just turning up is not enough: God requires a response, symbolised by the wedding garment. Those who are not prepared to participate will find that they are on the outside.
There is a parallel here with our membership of the family of the Church. Everyone is invited. Baptism is our entry into the mystery of God’s love, but it is only a beginning. At every child’s baptism, parents are reminded that it is their responsibility to bring their child up to love God and neighbour as Christ has taught us, to keep the flame of faith alive their child’s heart, to lead their child, through the sacraments of Confirmation and Communion, into the fullness of God’s love.
There is also a big difference. The invitation we receive is not a one-off, a chance that, once missed, will never come again. Some people drift away from the faith they received as children and only feel drawn to get involved again much later in life, often when they have children of their own. Some people hear the call for the first time as adults. Others may be vaguely aware of a desire to be part of the family of the Church but it never quite seems urgent enough for them to do anything about it, until some event of great joy or sadness makes them wonder about the real meaning of life.
God is always wanting people to share in his feast, and is always looking for servants willing to go out and deliver the invitations.