BY: Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Once upon a time, a king takes his only son (the heir apparent) and some of his servants to attend a royal wedding banquet in another kingdom. They were few miles away to the event when the king alights from his chariot and removing his royal garment; he disguises himself to look like a farmer.

The king’s son and the servants were surprised and asked the King what it all meant. Answering, the King tells them not to say anything but only to observe. When they arrived at the palace, the prince and the servants were warmly received and ushered in, but the king (who is now looking like a farmer) was asked to wait for them outside the banquet hall; nobody cared to give him even a cup of water.

After some time, the king went to his chariots and changed into his usual royal garment. He was still on his way back to the banquet hall when someone sees him and alerts the host, and everyone stands as the golden trumpet signals the entry of royalty.

While they were returning to their kingdom after the event, the prince inquired from the king why he had to change his royal outfit initially and why he proceeded to put them back later. Turning to his son, the king says to him: “What did you observe?” The prince tells the king that he observed that when he was dressing like a farmer, nobody could recognize him, but as royalty, he received the highest honor and recognition. The king appreciates his answer and tells him to make sure that he should always keep his royal dignity to gain royal respect because a king without royalty is worthless.

People often address us the way we dress. If you dress well, people will address you well, and the opposite is the case. The hood may not make the monk, but it could identify a monk. The liturgy of the word this Sunday has a message for us which centers around an invitation to a banquet and dressing correctly for the banquet. Two critical things that precede events are, invitation and dress. These day people dress in uniforms and colors (“aso ebi” in Nigerian parlance).

It will be good for us to understand that the banquet points to the heavenly banquet which is open for everyone and at the same time restricted to those who have the right dress (Rev. 7:14).

The First Reading (Isaiah 25:6-10a) tells us that God is inviting us to a banquet of rich food on a mountain. On that mountain we shall eat freely and have divine remedies: no sorrows, no mourning, no tears, no death, and there will be salvation! What a grand banquet to attend.

Though the attendance to this banquet is free and open for everyone; each person needs to climb up to the mountain. We all know that mountain climbing is physically tasking and spiritually it is even more tasking. The Psalmist once asked, “who can climb the mountain of the Lord who can stand in His presence?” He also answers: “Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies” (Psalm 24:3-4).

In the Gospel Reading (Matt.22:1-14), Our Lord uses the parable of a banquet to describe the Kingdom of God. In the narrative, a king sends invitations to people to attend a sumptuous banquet, but he gets flimsy excuses from them; some even maltreated and killed the servants who brought the good news.

The king did not relent; he sends the servants to get guests from anywhere possible and soon the banquet hall was full. However, the king discovers someone who was invited but was not well dressed. The individual was apprehended and thrown away because his dressing did not match with the occasion. Our Lord concludes the parable with a moral lesson: “many are called, but few are chosen.”

The Kingdom of heaven is a divine facility that is open for everyone, and daily we are invited to come and be part of it. In the narrative, we discover that the King did not give up even when his those invited could not honor it. He continued to send more servants to make sure that the banquet is full.

The King seems to understand the value of the banquet more than those he was inviting. God is still sending out invitations to us to come to His banquet through the world of God that we hear daily encouraging us to change our ways and go back to God.

When we come back to God, we should be able to leave the things of the past (Isaiah 43:18). The man who was not well dressed in the narrative represents most of us who answer Christians but do not live the life. Some of us want the new, but they do not wish to cast off the old.

As we enter a new week, let us be conscious of God invitation to us to His eternal banquet. In our day and age, some people are still giving excuses to God: “I am too busy, I do not have time.” Somewhere I read the “BUSY” means “Being Under Satan’s Yoke.” We often forget that our lives come from God and it will be a show of ingratitude not to have time for the giver of life and time.

May God bless you as you accept His invitation today and dress appropriately for the banquet of the Eucharist which is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
Fr. Bonnie.

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