The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 22:1-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 17, 2013

Mat 22:1  And Jesus answering, spoke again in parables to them, saying:

“And Jesus answering.” The word, “answer,” by a Hebrew idiom, means, to commence speaking; to continue a discourse, introducing something new. It does not always suppose a preceding question calling for a reply. Here, it conveys, that no way daunted by the well-known designs of the Pharisees, our Redeemer continues to speak to them, and takes occasion, from their feelings, which He well knew, to point out, in the following parable, the rejection of the Jews, the call of the Gentiles, and the final reprobation of the evil doers, who, although of the Church, persevere in bad works to the end. It might be said, too, that He “answered,” to the latent thoughts of the Pharisees, “in parables.” It is disputed whether the following parable is the same as that mentioned (Luke 14:15 ff), there being several circumstances in which they agree; and several, in which they differ. Some commentators, among whom are St. Augustine, St. Gregory, Jansenius, &c., say, they are quite different; that they were uttered under different circumstances. The parable referred to in St. Luke, was spoken when our Redeemer had been at table in the house of one of the Pharisees, and spoken on occasion of an observation made by one of the guests; whereas, the parable here, was spoken in different circumstances. Moreover, the characters referred to are quite different; the messengers despatched in the two parables, quite different, &c. Others, with St. Irenæus, &c., whose opinion is held by Maldonatus, say, there is reference to the same parable in St. Luke and here. The substance and scope in both are the same; and the circumstances in which they differ, so trivial, that they merit no consideration. The difference of circumstance of time and place, is accounted for in this way: St. Luke records facts accurately; whereas, St. Matthew, although remarkable for quoting our Redeemer’s words more fully than the other Evangelists, is not very particular in detailing the order of events; and hence, often anticipates or postpones events in his narrative, being more desirous of fully recording our Redeemer’s words. Here, then, he quotes this parable, although uttered under other circumstances; because, it suited those whom our Redeemer was now addressing.

Mat 22:2  The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king who made a marriage for his son.

“The kingdom of heaven,” viz., the Church of Christ, which is the long expected kingdom of the Messiah, in which He reigns over angels and men, subject and obedient to His spiritual rule. Hitherto, men were in servitude; but, now, the faithful are gifted with true spiritual liberty, under the sway of a spiritual King. It is also called “heavenly;” because all its ordinances, gifts, privileges, are from heaven; its destination, and the end to which it tends, is heaven.

“Is like to a king.” It is not the kingdom, but, rather, the King of heaven, that is like a king. Hence, the words mean: something occurs in the founding and extension of the Church, like unto what is represented in the following parable of the king and the marriage feast.

The literal meaning of the parable needs no explanation. Hence, we have only to point out its application. The king who instituted the marriage feast, refers to the Heavenly Father, whose eternal “Son,” Jesus Christ, in the fulness of time, being born of the Father from eternity, was born as man, of the Virgin, in time, and united to Himself the nature of man.

“The marriage,” refers, not to the nuptial union, but to the marriage feast (Mt 22:4 ff), to the graces, the Sacraments of the Church; above all, to the Sacrament of the adorable Eucharist; to the Word of God, by which the soul is nourished, all of which will lead to the enjoyment of those delights in store for the sons of God, who shall be inebriated with the abundance of God’s house, and for ever drink of the torrent of His delights (Psa. 36:9). By His assuming human nature, and afterwards redeeming us by His death, our Redeemer espoused His Church, and united her to Him by Faith, Hope, and Charity, here; which is to be followed by a closer union in the fruition of bliss, hereafter. The feast consequent on this nuptial union of Christ, comprises all the blessings of soul and body resulting therefrom, both in this life and in the next. It is quite usual, in SS. Scripture, to represent the covenant of God with man, under the figure of a marriage feast. (Isa. 54:6; Jer. 3:8; Matt. 25:5; John 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2 ff) The allusion here to the mystical union of Christ with His Church, supposes a magnificent feast, such as marriage feasts, of kings, were amongst the ancients.

Mat 22:3  And he sent his servants to call them that were invited to the marriage: and they would not come.

The “invited,” most likely, refers to the Jews, who had long since been invited by their Prophets and the Law of Moses, to prepare for the rich banquet, which in the time of the New Law, was to follow the Incarnation of the Son of God. The servants sent to call in those who were already invited, most probably refer to John the Baptist, and the Apostles, who, before the death of our Redeemer, invited the Jews to do penance, as “the kingdom of heaven was at hand.” St. Jerome reads, servant, in the singular. But, as it was most likely taken from St. Luke (Lk 14:17), the reading here is the more probable. The phrase, calling “those who were invited,” is allusive to a custom very prevalent, of issuing a more precise invitation, on the eve of a marriage, to the friends, who were before informed, in a more general way, of the event to take place at some period not then defined. “And they would not come.” The Jewish people resisted these gracious calls and invitations. As the king is said (v. 4), to send out “other servants” a second time, which are generally understood to refer to the Apostles; hence, some commentators understand, by the servants referred to in this verse (3), John the Baptist, and our Redeemer Himself, who was a servant, according to human nature. As, however, the servants sent on both occasions would seem to be different from the king’s son, of whose marriage there is question, it is better to adopt the former interpretation; for, the same Apostles may be regarded as other servants, inasmuch as they were sent on another and different occasion. Moreover, they were different men after the descent of the Holy Ghost, and they had associated to them parties who did not preach before the death of Christ, viz., Paul and Barnabas.

St. Chrysostom understands the servants, to refer to the latter Prophets; and John the Baptist, who pointed out Christ as already come, and His kingdom now arrived. Our Redeemer Himself, may perhaps, be included, since, in one respect, He was a servant, and He personally invited all: “Come to Me all ye that labour,” &c.; and also, when He commanded them to eat His flesh and drink His blood, which is the most precious banquet ever destined by God for man.

Mat 22:4  Again he sent other servants, saying: Tell them that were invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. Come ye to the marriage. 

“Other servants.” This, most probably, refers to the period after the death of Christ, when He sent His Apostles and Apostolic men to invite the Jews again to the banquet. St. Chrysostom comments on the folly of the Jews, whose refusal necessitated this second mission of the king’s servants. After having slain his son and heir; after having spurned and refused the invitation of a king, and that to a banquet, which refusal was calculated to enrage him; still, such is the goodness of this Heavenly King, that He repeats His invitation, telling them, “all things are ready.” The invitation is not to sufferings, crosses, and afflictions; but, to pleasures and delights, at the very time they deserved punishment for the murder of His Son. No doubt, all who will take on them the yoke of Christ, will have to suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12); still, our Redeemer Himself declares, that His “yoke is sweet, and His burden light;” and the Psalmist invites all to “taste and see that the Lord is sweet.”

The “fatlings and beeves,” refer to the precious viands prepared in a style of royal magnificence for the numerous guests invited to the royal marriage; for more than one many “fatlings are killed.” This, may refer, in a special manner, to the death of Christ, and the institution of the adorable Eucharist, which took place between the first and second sending out of His servants. “All things are ready,” refers to the manifold and superabundant spiritual effects of the death of Christ, in the removal of obstacles, by His victory over the devil; in His throwing open the gates of heaven; and in the abundant graces now dispensed, of which the Holy Ghost plentifully dispensed by the Apostles, was a sure earnest and foretaste.

“Come ye to the marriage.” What infinite goodness and condescension on the part of our good God, whose happiness was no way affected by their coming or staying away.

Mat 22:5  But they neglected and went their ways, one to his farm and another to his merchandise.

The neglect and indifference with which they treated the invitation of the king, not heeding it, but merely attending to their ordinary business, clearly exhibit, the dispositions of the Jews in regard to embracing the faith of Jesus Christ, after He had shed His blood for them. Plunged in earthly cares, and grovelling in their attachment to temporal concerns—which is a distinguishing characteristic of that unhappy race even to the present day—they undervalued the price of Redemption, and preferred frivolous and passing pleasures, to the solid and permanent joys of a celestial banquet.

Mat 22:6  And the rest laid hands on his servants and, having treated them contumeliously, put them to death.

Some of them went so far as to maltreat and abuse the kind’s messengers. This exhibits the ingratitude of the Jews in a still clearer light, inasmuch as, having been invited long beforehand, and having promised to come to the nuptials, now, when everything is prepared, at immense sacrifice and cost, they kill the servants sent to call them.

The bad treatment received by the Apostles at the hands of the Jews, is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. They show still greater brutality than those did, who are referred to in the parable of the vineyard; for, these slew only the men who demanded the fruit of the vineyard, whereas, the others slew those who demanded nothing of them, but merely invited them to partake of the greatest enjoyments and delights.

How often do we not act similarly, crucifying again the Son of God by our sins, and exposing Him to mockery, refusing to enjoy His heavenly banquet. This, in a special manner, applies to those Christians, who refuse to approach Holy Communion; engrossed in worldly business and the distracting cares of temporal interests, or, indulging in illicit pleasures, they crucify again the Son of God; and we should tremble the more, as we have not the excuse the Jews had, viz., the folly and scandal of the Cross of Christ, to estrange and deter us.

For, we know, that He has triumphed by His Cross; and having been crucified according to the weakness of the flesh. He now lives by the power of God, seated at His right hand.

Mat 22:7  But when the king had heard of it, he was angry: and sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers and burnt their city.

When the king had heard of it” This is spoken conformably to the parable; as also are the words, “He was angry;” since the supreme King, knew of Himself, in virtue of His omniscience, all that happens; nor is He ever changed or moved to anger, save in the sense of inflicting punishment, as is done by an angry man.

“And sending His armies,” &c. This has evident reference to the destruction of Jerusalem forty years after, by the Romans under Titus and Vespasian. They are called “His armies;” because, they were mere instruments in the hands of God, to execute His judgments. (See Isa. 13:4-5 ff; Jer. 25:9 ff) It was “He sent” these armies. It was He destroyed, by their instrumentality, without their knowing it, “those murderers, and burnt their city.” Josephus, describing the fearful miseries endured by the Jews in the last siege of Jerusalem, tells us, 1,100,000 persons were destroyed, and the city utterly ruined (Lib. 6, c. 9, de Bello Judaico). This might be regarded as a prophetic parable, which was fulfilled to the letter. The temporal punishment inflicted on the unhappy Jerusalem, is but a type of the excruciating tortures which, in the next life, the enemies of God are doomed to suffer for ever in hell.

Mat 22:8  Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready; but they that were invited were not worthy. 

“Then,” after the Jews, who were invited first, had rejected and spurned the grace of the Gospel, “He saith to His servants,” the Apostles, whose invitation the Jews had rejected.

“Were not worthy,” implies more than is expressed. It means, that they rendered themselves positively unworthy, by their incredulity and resistance to grace. For, the Gentiles who were admitted into the Church, were not worthy; but, they did not place such obstacles to grace as did the Jews. (Rom. 9:30, &c.) The mysterious economy of God in calling the Gentiles only, when the Jews had rejected the Gospel, and in making their fall the occasion of the call of the others, is fully explained by St. Paul (Rom. 11); and, also, Acts 13:45 ff .

Mat 22:9  Go ye therefore into the highways; and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage.

But, although the first invited refused coming, still, the banquet would not be left unattended. “Highways” (“exitus viarum,” Vulgate), are understood by some, to mean the places where many roads meet, and whence many roads branch off. These are generally the places most crowded—places of public resort. Others understand by them, the outlets of the main streets from the city into the country. In the parable, the words refer to the most distant and remote nations of the Gentiles, “in omnem terram,” &c. (Psalm 18) “Eritis mihi testes,” &c. (Acts 1:8).

“And as many as you shall find.” No exception, no distinction—Jews or Gentiles, Greeks or barbarians. To all they are debtors. To all they owe it, to invite them to the king’s banquet.

Mat 22:10  And his servants going forth into the ways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good: and the marriage was filled with guests.

They invited them, without distinction or exception—“good and bad.” Since all are “bad,” before their call, the words mean, they invited all, without distinction, from every class and rank of life, from every tribe, tongue, people, nation, sex, and profession. Or, the words may refer to the different degrees of moral character, which exist among Pagans themselves. For, among Pagans, some may be morally good, v.g., Cornelius the centurion, and others, “who by nature, do those things that are of the law” (Rom. 2:14); or, at least, there are “good and bad” among them, according to their own notions and opinions. The words may also refer to the condition they were in after their vocation and aggregation to the Church; and thus would show, that there are wicked men even in the Church, as is expressed, verse 11.

“And the marriage was filled with guests,” refers to the fulness of the Gentiles, who entered the Church after the Jews had refused entering, whose incredulity was made the occasion of the call of the former.

Mat 22:11  And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment.

The entrance of the king “to see the guests,” is literally allusive to the usage observed by exalted personages, when they give splendid entertainments, of going in to see how all things appear, how it fares with their guests, and whether all things are conducted in a way worthy of such an occasion. In the application, it refers to the judgment of God, whether particular, at death; or, general, at the end of the world, as appears from the punishment (v. 13). Our Redeemer introduces this, to prevent any false feelings of foolish confidence on the part of the Gentiles, who were introduced after the Jews were rejected; since, it will not suffice to be in the Church to gain salvation. Many of the children of the Church may be reprobates and lost.

“And He there saw a man,” a certain person sitting down with the other guests.

“Wedding garment,” cannot refer to faith; since, he could not be there without it. By faith, and the sacraments of faith, he entered the Church. To come to the feast is, to believe, as those who did not come did so, because they did not believe. Hence, the word means, charity, which was the disposition in which Christ Himself united to Him His Church; and, therefore, the corresponding disposition which each one should carry with him. Charity it is, that “that covers a multitude of sins.” Charity it is, with the want of which St. John charges the Bishop of Ephesus, and the want of which rendered displeasing to God, the Bishop of Laodicea. It is charity that renders us beautiful in the eyes of God.

Others understand by it, a spotless, holy life, free from gross sins, adorned with all virtues and good works. This it is, that constitutes the putting on of Christ (Rom. 13:14; Col 3:12); the putting on of the new man (Eph. 4:14); the newness of life (Rom. 6:4); the new creature (Gal. 6:15). This, however, comes to the same as the preceding interpretation, since charity cannot exist without a good life and meritorious good works; nor can these exist, in the sense now referred to, without charity. Hence, “the nuptial garment,” embraces all, viz., charity, good works, and a truly Christian life. This shows, that faith alone, without good works, will not suffice for salvation.

Mat 22:12  And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent.

“Friend, how earnest thou hither?” This form of address, shows the reproach Almighty God will make to the members of His Church, who, having abused the friendship shown them, and having insulted Him after all the marks of friendship and love exhibited by Him, deserve hell. It also shows, that God punishes them, from a sense of justice, rather than from a feeling of hatred.

“He was silent,” conveys to us, that at the hour of death, or on the Day of Judgment, the light of God’s justice shall so dazzle the reprobate, and place the crimes they concealed from man in so manifest a light, that they cannot either deny or palliate them. The angels and men at judgment, shall be witnesses, says St. Jerome, of the sins of those whom the Divine justice will condemn: “nec negandi erit facultas, cum omnes Angeli et mundus ipse sit testes peccatorum. Illuminabit abscondita tenebrarum et manifestabit consilia cordium”

Mat 22:13  Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“The waiters,” the Angels, who are to execute the decrees of Divine justice.

The “binding of hands and feet,” denotes the inevitable punishment in store for them, in “exterior darkness,” &c., which refers to the eternal torments of hell, where they shall be for ever shut out from the sight of God, and the brilliant light of the supper hall; and consigned in a darksome dungeon to excruciating tortures, denoted by “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In speaking of “exterior darkness, weeping,” &c., our Redeemer passes, as sometimes is His wont, from the parabolical form of expression, to the thing denoted by the parable.

Mat 22:14  For many are called, but few are chosen.

“For, many are called, but few are chosen.” This is the conclusion which our Redeemer draws from the foregoing parable. At first sight, one would imagine the conclusion, from the rejection of only one out of so many guests, ought to be, although many are called, only FEW are rejected. Some expositors, among them, St. Augustine, say, that this one who was rejected, was a type, and representative of those who are rejected, who are many, and more numerous than those who are saved, since, “broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter thereat;” whereas, but few enter the narrow gate. The scope of the parable, according to this, is to show that, besides the many who altogether refuse entering the Church, even of those who enter, some are lost. That our Redeemer designed to make the man in question, a representative of those many, who, being called, are still rejected, appears from the general conclusion He draws from the parable.

Others assert, that the conclusion is drawn from the entire foregoing passage, and comprises both the vast multitudes, who refuse entering the Church, and those who, being in the Church, do not lead lives worthy of their vocation, nor persevere to the end, and are thus rejected. Then in this interpretation, both the justness, and truth of the general conclusion are quite evident, since, if we include among those called, all who remain outside the Church, Jews and Pagans, and all who, being in the Church, do not lead edifying lives, it is clear, the damned are many, and the saved comparatively few. Others say, that the conclusion, as well as the entire parable, refers to the Jews, of whom many were called, but few embraced the faith at the preaching of the Apostles; and our Redeemer casually introduces, at the end of the parable, verse 11, the case of one of those who entered the Church, and was still lost, to show those who are members of the Church, and the Gentiles, who are called, that they had no reason to glory against the Jews; since, not all that are called and enter the Church are saved, which is sufficiently verified and exhibited by the fate of only one, in the Church, because he had not “the wedding garment,” was not clothed with the robe of charity and sanctifying grace.

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