Invitation to God’s Wedding Banquet

by Edmond Lo
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Proverbs 9:1-6

Ephesians 5:15 - 20

John 6:51 - 58

It’s not easy to hold a wedding banquet these days. Just ask my daughter who is about to get married. You must find a venue that covers all your needs; a caterer who can provide decent food, drinks, and services at reasonable and affordable costs; and – here comes the trickiest part – decide who should, or shouldn’t, be on your invitation list. You don’t want to leave out people who may consider themselves worthy of being invited. At the same time, you also don’t want to include people who don’t really expect to be invited. Miscalculation either way could have detrimental consequences.

Let’s see how God handles these three difficult issues in hosting his wedding banquet. God’s wedding banquet? Yes, as sophisticated as it may seem, the whole biblical account of God’s plan of salvation, from Genesis to Revelation, and from creation to the Last Judgement, really boils down to just one primary issue: God the Father holding a wedding banquet and inviting his people to come.

Like my daughter, God must consider the venue for his wedding banquet. Where is it? How does God prepare it? We are told in the first reading that He has built a house with seven columns for this important occasion. What is this “house of God”? According to the OT books, it’s the sanctuary in which God dwells (Ex 25:8); the tent filled with the glory of the Lord, (Ex 40:35-38); the Jerusalem Temple that King Solomon, the son of David, built (2 Samuel 7:5-13, Acts 7:47). When read typologically (see CCC 128-130), these OT passages and images actually point us to the Church that Jesus, the Son of David, eventually builds and institutes (Mt 16:18). They are to be understood as prefigurations of the Kingdom of God, of which the Church is the seed and the beginning (CCC 764, LG 5). So, there you go. the venue for God’s wedding banquet has been firmed up: it’s the Church of Christ.

Like my daughter, God wants his guests to eat and drink well at the banquet. As a result, “Wisdom”, the divine and anthropomorphic character that prefigures Jesus in the first reading, “has dressed her meat, mixed her wine…[and] spread her table”. A similar biblical account of God getting ready the food and drinks for his banquet is presented in Isaiah: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines” (Is 25:6). The holy mountain referred to in this passage is Mt. Zion, on which the Temple of Jerusalem was situated. On Mt. Zion, in the Temple of Jerusalem – a prefiguration of the Church – God will serve rich food and choice wines.

Whether the meal for God’s banquet is “dressed meat” and “mixed wine” (reading one) or “rich food and pure, choice wines” (Is 25:6), the details remain rather vague until Jesus comes to put the menu on the banquet tables for God’s guests to see clearly. When they do, it is quite a bombshell! As indicated in the Bread of Life discourse, the passage selected for this Sunday’s gospel reading, the meat that Wisdom (Jesus) dresses and the wine that she mixes are in fact Jesus’ own body and blood! The Eucharist is the “rich food and choice wines” that give us the promise of eternal life and resurrection on the last day!

The Psalm response fittingly invites us to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord”. For on this holy mountain – the Church – Jesus is hosting a wedding banquet for us. In this holy wedding banquet that takes place in the liturgical setting of the Church, Jesus is the host, the servant, and the meal itself! What’s more, we are not only Jesus’ guests; we – the Church collectively – are also his bride! In other words, what’s happening in every Divine Liturgy of the Church is the Church faithful’s mysterious participation in the Heavenly Liturgy in the heavenly Temple of Jerusalem where the wedding feast of the Lamb is joyfully celebrated (cf. Rev 19:7).

What about the invitation list? God surely will have difficulty handling this task too. Right? Hmm, not really. The wedding banquets hosted by God and by my daughter differ in one significant way. Unlike my daughter who is restricted by various constraints and must be selective in her invitation, God’s invitation is for everyone (cf. Mt 22:9-10). Incredible as it may sound, his venue – the Church – is big enough to accommodate everyone, regardless of races, languages, countries, and times.

However, there’s one catch to God’s open invitation: those who don’t dress properly for the wedding banquet will eventually get kicked out by the King (Mt. 22:11-14). Uh-oh… What exactly is the proper dress code for the banquet? And who’s the King? Let’s keep an eye on him to avoid being kicked out! The dress code, according to the Bible, is a “bright, clean linen garment [which] represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones” (Rev 19:8). As for the King, who else is he but Jesus, the Prophet, Priest, and King? Who can judge our righteousness but Jesus, the “Faithful and True [who] judges in righteousness” (Rev 19:11)? Yes, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, not only at the banquet table, but at every moment of our life. As St. Paul reminds us, “[L]et us…persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Heb 12:1-2).