My dear friends in our Lord, glory to Jesus Christ!
Many are called, but few are chosen. These are the words which sum up the parable which our Lord proposes to us today.
In this parable, our Lord likens the kingdom of heaven to a marriage feast made by a king for his son. And when the feast was ready, the king sent his servants to call those who were invited to come. Of course, those who were invited began to make excuse and did not come. Other servants were sent, and they met an even worse fate than simple excuse, as they were mistreated and even killed. And the king was forced to send his armies to put down this lawlessness.
Thereafterwards, the marriage feast was still ready, and the king still wished to share the joy of the day with as many as could be there. So more servants were sent out to invite absolutely everyone they could find. And this they did, and the wedding feast was filled with guests.
But then we hear of the king seeing one guest at the feast, and this guest was not dressed in a wedding garment. The king addresses him kindly, asking him why he had not put on the garment, but the guest was silent. The king then had the guest removed by the guards, to be ushered out of the feast. And the Lord concludes with the words, again, “many are called but few are chosen.”
It is a challenging parable in some respects, even if the imagery is easily grasped. For the King is God the Father. The bridegroom is God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The bride is the Church of God. In the marriage, the nuptuals, we see the betrothal of the Son to Immaculate Bride, the Church, and their union, through which we members of the Church become partakers of the divine nature. The dinner, or feast itself is the eternal Kingdom of God.
The challenging part is that by turns, we may see ourselves both in the servants who are sent out to invite those who are called to the feast, as well as being those who are ourselves invited.
The servants do not have an easy time of it, to say the least. They are met with either distinterest, with those who were invited making all sorts of excuse – or outright hostility and violence, and even being put to death. All for the sake of delivering an invitation. Let us keep that in mind – that the work of delivering the invitation of the King can be a hazardous occupation, at least if we see it only with the eyes of flesh. In the grand scheme of the Kingdom, however, all things work to the greater glory of God, and all work for Him is blessed and worthy. So be not discouraged if the challenging work of invitation sometimes seems to go nowhere.
But let us also be challenged ourselves in that we – each of us – are also ourselves those who are invited to the marriage feast. How do we respond to this invitation? Do we immediately leave our worldly concerns and go joyfully at the call of the King? Or do we hesitate? Do we make excuses? Do we consider our worldly concerns, our merchandise, our fields, our possessions as being more urgent than hearing the invitation sent to us by the King Himself? Do we even deride, or mock, or despise the invitation, and those who bring it to us?
Do we find that there are times we are so deeply and uncomfortably challenged by the invitation to grace that we would even put it to death, if we could, just so that we could be left to ourselves, left to our own comfort, left to our own complacency? Here is the initial challenge of being one who is invited: to respond, to say yes, to make our way to the marriage-feast, in short: to enter into the Church of God. For this is the invitation: to come to the Church, so that we might ultimately partake of the eternal feast of the Kingdom of Heaven.
But then there is a second challenge. Once we have responded, once we have entered the Church, then we must put on – and maintain – the wedding garment. The wedding garment is provided by the King Himself to His beloved guests, and the wedding garment is the state of grace. To be called and to be made clean is the work of grace.
Now to be called and to stay clothed in clean garments, keeping them pure, is dependent on the will and desire and diligence of those who are called. Without this will, and desire, and diligence, our garments may indeed become soiled, or we may even cast them off entirely. And this is the situation of the guest in the parable without a garment. The King provided garments for all His guests. The one without a garment is without that garment precisely because he cast it off. Likewise the King provides grace in the soul of the one who is regenerated in Baptism and entrance to the Church of Christ. If, then, one loses the state of sanctifying grace through sin, it is through one’s own deliberate action.
Thus we see that the guest without the garment had no excuse before the king, and thus he rendered judgment against himself. He would not be there without a wedding garment unless he had himself put off the wedding garment that he had been given. Therefore, he was condemned to be cast out.
For many are called, but few are chosen.
Today, you are called. You have been called by grace. And in this call, there is a challenge: to be among those chosen, chosen through responding yes, chosen by going joyfully to the marriage, chosen by exercising your free will, putting on the wedding garment offered by the King to you, His beloved guest, and wearing that garment in the purity of faith, and with the greatest of gratitude and love for the One Who gave it.
Many are called, few are chosen. Today without any doubt you are called. Your challenge is to choose to be chosen.