Jgs 11:29-39; Ps 40:4-10; Mt 22:1-14
One week ago today we celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today we catch a glimpse of the crowning of her glory. She, too, is glad in the strength of the Lord God Almighty. Her role as Queen comes from the ancient eastern tradition of the Queen Mother. The mother of the king was the queen. Unlike in the west were the wife of the king was the queen. Mary is the Queen Mother; she is the mother of the king of the universe. Her heart’s desire is to serve her son’s every wish. The Lord Jesus welcomed his mother with goodly blessings and placed on her head a crown of pure gold. The Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, gladdens our faces when we contemplate her crowned with the victory of her Son, the Great King above all the earth.
To do the will of the Lord, even to desire to do the will of the Lord, is never easy. The will of the Lord makes absolute demands on us. We must deny ourselves daily and pick up our cross every day. The cross of obedience is the key of liberation. We become truly free when we surrender in loving obedience. The man who makes the Lord his trust does not get caught up in the lie of idolatry. Ears open to obedience the Lord gives to those who come into his presence. The law of the Lord is within his heart and gradually the delights of doing God’s will is more attractive than the delights of doing whatever we want to do. Jephthah’s vow was not easy to fulfill, yet the loving obedience of his daughter taught him more about the Lord than did his victory over the Ammonites. The Lord Jesus tells the chief priests and the elders of the people a parable about the Kingdom of heaven. This parable reveals just how persistent the king is about his invitation to share in that kingdom. Each Mass is an invitation to taste and see the future glory of heaven in the present moment of mercy.
The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon Israel’s judge Jephthah. The Spirit gave to Israel’s leader the strength to defeat the Ammonites, but the Spirit did not inspire Jephthah’s stupid vow. The Spirit did not give wisdom to Jephthah with regard to his vow. Where’s his wisdom? Where’s his common sense? Why did he not figure out that his only child would be the first to greet him after his victory? Why did he vow: “Whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the LORD. I shall offer him up as a burnt offering?” This senseless vow sounds like the spontaneous and surprising Saint Peter and the other disciples at the Last Supper. “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you. And all the disciples spoke likewise.” Sometimes we learn only from speaking before thinking. Jephthah was passionate about defeating the Lord’s enemies, and his desire for victory blinded him to the dangers of his vow. Jephthah did not restrain his lips and once a vow is spoken it must be fulfilled. His daughter is the truly obedient one here. She teaches her father the meaning of true obedience. Her heartfelt obedience reveals the true sacrificial nature of love. Jephthah loved Israel and was willing to risk his life for the Chosen People. Jephthah’s daughter loved her father and God’s People and was willing to sacrifice herself without question or complaint. “Do with me as you have vowed.”
The Lord Jesus had more than one audience in mind for his parable in today’s gospel. Not only do the chief priests and the elders of the people receive a challenge, those invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb are challenged. At baptism each servant of the Kingdom of God is given a pure white robe to keep clean all through life. Growing in virtue and uprooting vice will enable the invited to keep their wedding garment ready to wear at the banquet. The guest without a wedding garment is reduced to silence because he knows full well what is expected of him and how he has failed. His mouth should be announcing the Lord’s justice in the vast assembly and his lips should be filled with unrestrained praises. However, he is disobedient, and he knew better. He had learned from the disobedient murderers who rejected the invitation and the servants who brought the invitation. However, when the banquet feast began he had no place among those in the Kingdom of heaven. Like our naked and guilt ancestors, Adam and Eve, his lack of proper attire revealed an interior attitude of idolatry and falsehood. He did not keep his baptismal garment spotless for the feast of the spotless Lamb of God. Like our first parents who had no place in Eden so he had no place in Heaven.