Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, 'Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." -Matthew 22:1-14
After those appalling false starts, the King invites everyone found along the "highways" to the wedding banquet. The good and the bad. But then, even amongst the good and the bad, the angry host singles out one person who doesn't have/ doesn't own/ isn't wearing the proper garment. What a mysterious story! I like Dan Berrigan's solution of contrasting Jesus with the King in his post for The National Catholic Reporter, quoted in The Last Word.
The metaphor of the garment of days, weaving the days of the soul's fabric by good deeds, helps me approach the parable (meditation one). Each day of life offers a chance to discover the true self (meditation two) and in so doing, help build the kingdom of God (meditation three).
Peeping out from behind my mask, -Suzannee
Meditation One (introit) garment of days
Come and see: When those days draw near to the Holy King, if the person leaving the world is pure he ascends and enters into those days and they become a radiant garment for his soul! But only his days of virtue, not his days of fault. Woe to him who has decreased his days up above! For when he comes to be clothed in his days, the days that he ruined are missing and he is clothed in a tattered garment. It is worse if there are many such days; then he will have nothing to wear in that world! Woe to him! Woe to his soul! He is punished in hell for those days, days upon days, two days for every wasted day! For when he left this world, he found no days to wear, he had no garment for cover. …
It has been taught: Happy are the righteous for their days are pure and extend to the world that is coming. When they leave this world, all their days are sewn together, made into radiant garments for them to wear. Arrayed in that garment, they are admitted to the world that is coming to enjoy its pleasures. Clothed in that garment, they are destined to come back to life. All who had a garment will be resurrected as it is written: 'They will rise as in a garment' (Job 38:14).
- Zohar trans. Daniel Chanan Matt
I got a robe, you got a robe, All God's children got a robe. When I get to Heav'n gonna put in my robe, Gonna shout all over God's Heav'n, Heav'n, Heav'n Everybody talkin' æbout Heav'n ain't going there, Heav'n, Heav'n, Heav'n. Gonna shout all over God's Heav'n.
I got shoes, you got shoes, All God's children got shoes. When I get to Heav'n gonna put in my shoes, Gonna walk all over God's Heav'n, Heav'n, Heav'n Everybody talkin' æbout Heav'n ain't going there, Heav'n, Heav'n, Heav'n. Gonna shout all over God's Heav'n.
I got a harp, you got a harp, All God's children got a harp. When I get to Heav'n gonna play on my harp, Gonna play all over God's Heav'n, Heav'n, Heav'n Everybody talkin' æbout Heav'n ain't going there, Heav'n, Heav'n, Heav'n. Gonna shout all over God's Heav'n.
The Wedding Dance in a Barn, Pieter Breugel the elder, 1616
Meditation Two (insight) wearing your false self
When Merton speaks of sin, he has in mind, not primarily a moral lapse whereby I choose what is in conflict with my better instincts, but an ontological laspe whereby I choose what is in conflict with my true being. It is not simply that I make mistakes. I become a mistake. For I become what I am not.
But the mistake can be overcome, I can choose to drop the mask, the illusion, of my false self and achieve my true identity in God. Indeed, from the moment I become capable of conscious acts of love, "[my] life becomes a series of choices between the fiction of [my] false self whom [I] feed with the illusion of passion and selfish appetite and [my] true identity in the peace of God."
-William H. Shannon Thomas Merton's Dark Path
Meditation Three (integration) to find our true selves
(Merton, writing about the Desert Fathers and Mothers)
We must liberate ourselves, in our own way, from involvement in a world that is plunging to disaster. But our world is different from theirs. Our involvement in it is more complete. Our danger is far more desperate. Our time, perhaps, is shorter than we think. We cannot do exactly what they did, But we must be as thorough and as ruthless in our determination to break all spiritual chains, and cast off the domination of alien compulsions, to find our true selves, to discover and develop our inalienable spiritual liberty and use it to build, on earth, the Kingdom of God.
-Thomas Merton 1915-1968 The Wisdom of The Desert (from the introduction)
The Last Word
The One who tells the story knows both goodness and wickedness, because He is good, consistent and compassionate. He longs to see humans standing in the orbit of God's love. He rejoices to see the speechless and poor, the nobodies, at His table.
In our story, he condemns no one, not even the king. Such a judgment is redundant, the royal behavior being self-condemned.
Rabbi Jacob said: “This world is like a vestibule before the world to come. Prepare yourself in the vestibule for the meeting in the banquet hall!” He used to say: “One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than the whole life of the world to come; but one hour of comfort in the world to come is better than the whole life of this world!” -Mishna, Abot 4.16-17
Is life on earth the narthex or “vestibule” for the kingdom to come? And do we create heaven in a metaphysical sense by what we do with life on earth? Imagine a kingdom of consciousness created by our choices and patterns today and in the moment, not just individually, but collectively. It's why we need prophets who look at the whole of a trend of a culture, (say, greed), and draw attention to it, (say, from a park near Wall Street).
Repent. The Kingdom of God is near! Are we co-creating the kingdom as a place of peace and justice and beauty? Or more like the environmental disaster we're creating in the vestibule while the Holy One weeps over the Beloved's wasted vineyard?
Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence. -Wendell Berry