Putting on the new wedding garment of Christ

Memorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot, Doctor, based on Judges 11:29-39, Matthew 22:1-14

Judges 11:29-39

The spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh. He passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the LORD’S, to be offered up by me as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them; and the LORD gave them into his hand. He inflicted a massive defeat on them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty towns, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.

  Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah; and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing. She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her. When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.” She said to him, “My father, if you have opened your mouth to the LORD, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the LORD has given you vengeance against your enemies, the Ammonites.” And she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: Grant me two months, so that I may go and wander on the mountains, and bewail my virginity, my companions and I.” “Go,” he said and sent her away for two months. So she departed, she and her companions, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains. At the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to the vow he had made.

Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people 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.”

Scripture passage from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Putting on the new wedding garment of Christ

  1. The thing that threw me about the gospel is the seeming contradiction between the acceptance of both ‘the good and the bad’ and the throwing out of the under-dressed man. I imagine both speak to an interior disposition toward the generosity of God, and both ‘the bad’ and the under-dressed seem to indicate a certain lack of readiness, but perhaps for different reasons: unworthiness for the former and ignorance/lack of awareness for the latter. I am also drawn to consider this in terms of fruitfulness (where it echoes with the first reading as well in terms of mourning the daughter’s virginity). So ‘the bad,’ perhaps referring to all of us sinners, may still be fruitful; but ‘the unawares,’ perhaps referring to all who sleepwalk through life, are not fruitful ( hence the silent response as well) & are thrown into the fire, much like the virgins who didn’t bring enough oil or the branches that do not remain on the vine. Thoughts? Impressions?

  2. Thank you for this interesting and helpful reflection. Some commentators see the addition of the parable of the under-dressed man as the early Church adding a qualification to the parable as Jesus told it – concerned that he was too generous and that people might think there is nothing they need to do. As you point out the obstacle to accepting the invitation is not so much sinfulness as indifference, and the link with the foolish virgins and the discarded branches is a good one. It is tempting to pass over things in the readings that are puzzling and problematic – it felt strange this morning to say ‘thanks be to God’ after reading about Jephthah and the fulfillment of his vow – but there is another kind of fruitfulness in waiting to see what the thorny bits of scripture might yield up, if we are patient, and prayerful.

  3. Thank you for your comment about engaging the thorny bits. I do think they can be sources of buried treasure. I would add to patience & prayerfulness the willingness to discuss & wrestle with them with others who are open & engaged.
    I appreciated too the info from the commentators. It’s exposed a certain bias of mine towards interpreting Jesus’ message through the lens of calling us to a radical challenge (Indifference, esp. among those who are already churched, is anathema to the reign of God!), so the other end of the spectrum from what the early Church may have been concerned about; and hence the connection to the virgins & the branches. (But I have also been reflecting on Anthony de Mello’s works of late, so that may be coloring my understanding.)
    Thanks so much for this conversation!

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