Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22: 1-14
‘Beyond a doubt the elect are few.’
Jesus, meek and mild, basically sums up the contemporary image of Christ. Jesus is a forgiveness machine, a divine Barney the Purple Dinosaur who loves us just the way we are. If more people read the Gospels these days, this type of lie would quickly be smashed beyond recognition. In the above excerpt from the Gospel of Matthew, Christ talks about how His Father is readying the marriage of His Son to His bride, the Church. The invited guests, most of the Jews, are refusing to appear at the nuptials. God responds by bringing to those who refuse His invitation the legions of Rome to destroy Jerusalem. In the meantime, substitute guests, the Gentiles, are invited to the wedding feast. So far so good, but then God the Father sees a guest who has not suitably prepared himself for the feast and casts him into the outer darkness (Hell).
The above analysis of this passage is how most Catholics would have interpreted this passage before the day before yesterday historically. It is filled with violent imagery of doom that is so much a feature of the Gospels as the justice of God exacts the penalty of sin. Christ came to save us from this justice by repentance, conversion and penance. Hell is an ever present reality in the teaching of Christ, as is the judgment of God. His mission is to save as many as He can from the everlasting fires and the worms that do not die.
How many of us have ever heard a sermon like that? I can recall a handful half a century ago. For every one such sermon, I have endured hundreds filled with the type of feel good pablum that is the hallmark of Catholic preaching in these decadent days. The desperate urgency that the best priests have always felt to save as many as they could, has been replaced by confusion, cheap mercy and grace, and, too often, a yawning indifference. Of course our clergy are not solely to blame. They are taken from a laity that mostly sleep walks toward the cliff at the mouth of Hell.
The words of Christ at the close of the above passage never fail to send a chill through me: “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Words to live and die by.