By Samantha Reynolds
If I were invited to the king’s banquet, I know I’d be the guest running sideways through the gilded gates just as they closed — but I’d look good doing it. The outfit I’d finally settle on would be the product of hours and hours of putting on and taking off every piece of clothing in my closet. I also know the moment I saw the king’s outrage at the man unsuitably dressed, I’d spend the rest of the evening hiding behind marble pillars and potted palms. It wouldn’t matter how much effort I put into my “wedding garments,” in my heart I knew the king would eventually find me lacking, too.
Often that’s how I approach my faith and God. I am convinced, that in the end all it will take for God to abandon me is one tiny chink in my armor. So I hide behind excuses not to draw near to Him. Like those weekdays when I have the time to go to Mass, but decide to run a “very” important errand instead. Or like when I feel the tug to go to Confession but put it off and put it off until the tug becomes a yank. It’s all a way of hiding from a God I don’t fully trust, whose gaze is a little too penetrating, and my soul a little too imperfect.
My problem is I am so quick to condemn myself, I lose sight of God’s mercy.
The word “lavish” kept coming to mind as I meditated on today’s readings. Lavish parties are the setting in both Isaiah and Matthew, but it seems like a tale of two Gods. At the banquet in Isaiah, He is a consoler and protector. In the Gospel, He is mercurial and petty. How can I profess a belief in a merciful God, when Jesus puts forth a parable that paints His Father as anything but? Not only does the king lack mercy in this story, he seems completely unhinged.
Then again, whenever Jesus tells a parable, the characters do and say strange things that don’t always fit in the tight mold of our hemmed in society. If the parable of the wedding banquet is anything like the rest, then Jesus exaggerates the king to make a point.
Strip away the exaggerations, and the king has three major characteristics:
1.) He’s persistent. I worship a God who pursues me because in His eyes the celebration is incomplete without me.
2.) All are welcome at the king’s table, “bad and good alike.”
My invitation to the banquet has nothing to do with my goodness, and everything to do with how loved I am by God.
3.) How I respond matters to God. It is not enough to simply accept God’s invitation. My belief in God must change me for the better.
It’s this lack of change that provokes the king to hog-tie and eject one of his guests over a fashion faux pas. The guest is the stereotypical lukewarm soulwhose clothes are an outward symbol of his heart. I can imagine the guest's reaction when the king’s servant invited him to the banquet. By way of an RSVP he probably shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sure, why not,” and two hours later showed up in the same wrinkled clothes he was wearing when the servant came to his door. That’s why the king threw him out. He was lavishing the man with his goodness, his love and the gesture was returned with indifference.
The word “lavish” comes from the Latin word “lavare” meaning “to wash.” God knows I will arrive at heaven’s gates with more than a few chinks in my armor. But He also knows that despite my shortcomings I strived so hard to celebrate the banquet with Him. Therefore, if I show up to the party dirty from slogging my way through the swamps of this life trying to get to Him, God will rejoice and say, “My daughter, how beautiful you look.”
God does not want perfection. He just wants my heart, changed and made new by the lavishness of His love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samantha is a self-described tumbleweed: born and raised in Colorado, a proud graduate of Loras College in Iowa, and now on the precipice of her second winter in Alaska. She loves the space and solitude of the Last Frontier and the close-knit community of Fairbanks. A textbook introvert, Samantha is most herself during the quiet moments of the day which include walking her dog, Zoe, at the nearby nature preserve, and daily phone calls to her best friend (otherwise known as Mom).