“Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears of all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth.”
It is now mid-October and we are coming to the end of the liturgical year. Some of the scripture readings during these final weeks are what is called “eschatological,” that is they refer to the end times. Final judgement, the after-life, heavenly reward – these are all eschatological topics. A typical image in the scriptures, including the gospels, is a banquet. Fullness, completion, satisfaction are all intended.
The gospel today portrays the kingdom of heaven as a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. Everyone is invited and the servants go out looking for more people when all those first invited give excuses for not attending. Are these people too comfortable or satisfied that they don’t need a banquet? In all events these who do finally come are those found in the streets, obviously the poorer people. This all makes sense so far. Then some poor guy is thrown out because he doesn’t have a wedding garment. One commentator says that the wedding garment is the sign of a person’s repentance and participation in the community who have not turned their heart to God. Somewhere I once read that a wedding garment was given to people coming in for the banquet. In that interpretation the guy thrown out refuses to wear his garment. That would make a little more sense! Parables don’t sweat details!
Isaiah in the first reading, as usual, is more poetic. The banquet takes place on God’s mountain, always a sign of holiness. Not only are there rich foods and well-aged wines. The Lord God, the Lord of hosts, will destroy the shroud that is cast over all peoples. He will swallow up death forever. God will wipe away the tears from all faces. It will be said on that day, “Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him, so that he might save us.” Now, this is exciting! Isaiah concludes, “This is the Lord for whom we have waited’ let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.” This is, indeed, an uplifting reading, offering a powerful vision of eternal life.
I add a word from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This is a very warm and tender letter written sent to people whom Paul loved. He is writing from prison under some duress. But he tells the flock, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” An encouraging word from one who has himself suffered much.