Mat 22:1 And Jesus answering, spoke again in parables to them, saying:
Mat 22:2 The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king who made a marriage for his son.
And Jesus answering, &c., refuting the incredulity of the Scribes. The meaning is: it is the same in the kingdom of Heaven, i.e., in the Church militant here on earth, as if a king made a marriage for his son, &c. For in other respects the kingdom of Heaven is not directly and precisely like a king, but a kingdom. S. Gregory treats this parable at length (Hom. 38, in Evang.).
The parable is similar to that which Luke records (Luk 14:16). Maldonatus thinks it is the same with that, and that Matthew has not here observed the historical order. With more reason S. Augustine (l. 2, de consens. Evang. c. 71), S. Thomas, Jansen, and others think that this is a different parable from that in Luke; or if the same, that they were uttered upon two occasions, and in different words. It is clear on comparison that they have numerous differences. For, not to speak of other things, Luke says that the parable was spoken in the house of a Pharisee. Matthew here asserts that it was spoken publicly in the temple. This is plain from ver. 23. Again, Luke calls this marriage feast a supper; Matthew, a dinner.
Mat 22:3 And he sent his servants to call them that were invited to the marriage: and they would not come.
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.
Mat 22:5 But they neglected and went their ways, one to his farm and another to his merchandise.
Mat 22:6 And the rest laid hands on his servants and, having treated them contumeliously, put them to death.
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.
The whole parable may be expounded and applied as follows:—1st The king is God the Father; the son of the king, the bridegroom is God’s Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, whose spouse is the Church, whose nuptials were begun in the Incarnation of Christ, for in it Christ espoused human nature to Himself, hypostatically, and the Church, that is, all faithful people, mystically, to be His Spouse by grace. But in Heaven these nuptials shall be consummated with glory. So Origen, SS. Hilary, Jerome, Gregory, and others. Wherefore, tropologically, “by marriage, understand,” says Origen, “the union of Christ with the soul; and by offspring, good works.”
2d. God the Father made a marriage feast for Christ, since in Judea, and in the whole world, He hath, through Christ, spread a table of evangelical doctrine and sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
3d. To this nuptial feast the Jews were invited by God, through Moses and the prophets, as the servants of God, both before and after the incarnation of Christ, that they might believe first that it was about to take place, and then that it had taken place; that so, believing in Christ, repenting and seeking grace from Him, they might obtain justice and salvation.
4th Beeves and fatlings have only the general signification of rich provision for a banquet. They denote the grandeur of the doctrines of the Gospel, says S. Jerome, and of the Sacraments.
Moreover, fatlings (altilia, Vulg.) do not mean winged creatures, birds and fowls, but bulls and calves, and other creatures which are fed up. Altilia is derived from alo, to nourish. The Greek is σιτιστά, fatlings. Wherefore the Arabic translates, and my calves are now fed, and have been killed, Gr. τεθυμένα, i.e., have been immolated. For in olden time, as now, weddings were wont to be inaugurated by a sacrifice, and marriage feasts were kept with victims slain and offered in sacrifice. So also the marriage feast of Christ, which is here parabolically described, took its beginning from the sacrifice of the Cross. Symbolically, by bulls (Vulg.) S. Gregory understands the Fathers of the Old Covenant, who, by the permission of the Law, smote their enemies with the horn of corporeal strength. But the fatlings, saith he, are the Fathers of the New Testament, raised by contemplation from the things of earth to things above. But Chrysostom says, “fatlings are Prophets; bulls, those who were both Prophets and Priests.” As bulls are leaders of the herd, so are Priests the princes of the people. S. Hilary says, the bulls are martyrs, who, like victims, have been immolated. The fatlings are spiritual persons, filled as it were with spiritual bread. Lastly, Origen says, the dinner is the word of God. Bulls signify the strong meat of the word; fatlings its sweeter portions.
5th. The field, the farm (verse 5), whither those who were invited went away, despising the invitation, signify temporal good things, which drew away the Jews from the faith of Christ, and from heavenly good things; and which led them to slay the servants of God, yea, even Christ Himself. Wherefore, God sent Titus, who slew the Jews as being murderers, and burnt up their city, namely, their capital, Jerusalem (verse 7).
Christ in this parable has an allusion to Isa_25:6, “And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined;” and Isa_30:23-24, “Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures. The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan.”
Learn from hence that Christ always sets before us in the Church a rich spiritual banquet of holy doctrine and grace, abundantly seasoned with sacred lections, sermons, exhortations, and with innumerable examples in every kind of virtue, of Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, with frequent receiving of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which is “the corn of the elect, and the wine that maketh virgins,” as Zechariah saith (Zec_19:17); with the Sacrifice of the Mass, with such great adornment of the sacred ministers, altars, and temples, and with the heavenly harmony of music and organs, and many other things which feed, delight, inebriate the souls of the faithful, so that Christianity is to the pious one continual banquet, according to the words in Isa_66:23, “The feast of the new moon shall be from one month to another, and from sabbath to sabbath.”
Lastly, Christ Himself, Incarnate, is the perennial food and joy of the faithful. For He, through the Incarnation, really communicates to them not only all the gifts of His grace, but Himself, in all His fulness, and therefore His very Deity itself. And this He gives them to taste, to eat, to enjoy, as it is said in S. Joh_6:51, “I am the Living Bread, who came down from heaven. Whosoever shall eat of this Bread, shall live eternally.” This is the reason why Isaiah, when declaring beforehand the delights and happiness which were to come to the new Church from Christ Incarnate, everywhere rejoices and exults, and invites all Christians evermore to rejoice and exult with him. See chaps. 2, 7.; chaps. 30,35,60., 61.,62., &c. Let Christians therefore, and especially Priests and Religions, take care to feed in these feasts in their souls; and serve Christ in righteousness and holiness, that thus they may begin that life of beatitude with Him now, which by and by will be perfected and consummated in Heaven.
Mat 22:8 Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready; but they that were invited were not worthy.
Mat 22:9 Go ye therefore into the highways; and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage.
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.
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.
Mat 22:12 And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent.
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.
Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
Then he saith, &c. This is the second part of the parable of the guests. Then, that is to say, when these who were invited, meaning the Jews, refused to come to the nuptial table of the evangelical doctrine of Christ, because they were not worthy of it, because they despised it—then saith the King, that is God, to His servants, the Apostles—
Go ye therefore into the highways; Vulg. the ends of the ways; Gr. διεξόδους όδω̃ν, the passages, the outlets of the ways. The meaning is, Traverse and run through all the ways, and the turnings, and corners, and bendings of the roads. Let there be no nook which you do not traverse. Do ye, 0 ye Apostles, travel over the whole world; go into all the countries of the nations, that ye may preach the faith of Christ to them, and invite all men to it. He also bids the Apostles to transfer the Gospel from the invited guests, that is the Jews, to all nations. Wherefore He adds—
And his servants going out &c. The Apostles were to go and preach the Gospel in all nations unto the ends of the earth, according to the words in Psa_19:4-5, “Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the end of the world.” Mystically: the servants are angels who preside over the conversion of the Gentiles, says Origen.
Symbolically: the highways are the various and contradictory errors and sects of the Gentiles, which the Apostles destroyed. So Remigius. 2d. S. Chrysostom says, The ways are the various professions of men in the world, as the profession of philosophy, arms, &c. Christ therefore bids that men of every profession shall be invited to believe. 3d. S. Hilary says, “The way is the time of the world. They are bidden to go out to the end, because the past is forgiven to all.” 4th. S. Gregory says, The ways are actions: their terminations (exitus) are defects.
His servants…gathered together all, &c. This is an ornament (emblema) of the parable, and only signifies that all men, without any distinction whatsoever, are invited to the faith of Christ.
And the wedding was filled with guests. The Church has been filled with a copious multitude of all nations.
The king went in to see the guests, that he might survey and examine them. This shall take place when God shall come to the general judgment at the end of the world, to judge, and reward or punish all mankind. So Origen, &c.
And he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. Syr. a festal garment. The garment for the wedding, that is, one which is clean, precious, and splendid, is not faith, as the heretics say. For all who were at this feast of the Church, indeed, could not have entered in except by faith. Therefore this garment is charity, and holiness of life. A pure and holy life is like a clean and splendid robe, woven of virtues and good works, which are a glorious adornment of a man. So SS. Jerome, Hilary, Tertullian, and others. S. Gregory explains the not having a wedding garment to mean faith without works of charity, by which the Lord comes to unite the Church in marriage with Himself. But S. Augustine (lib. 2, contra Faust. c. 19) explains it to mean one who seeks his own, not the Lord’s glory. But S. Hilary says, the wedding garment is the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the brightness of heavenly conversation, which being received by the good answer of confession, is preserved spotless for the celestial company. S. Jerome says, works which are fulfilled out of the Law and the Gospel, form the garment of the new man.
Many in the day of judgment who believed in Christ shall be found without this robe of charity and sanctity; yet one only is mentioned, because this matter is spoken of, as it were, by the way. For the direct object of Christ in this parable was to declare that when the unbelieving Jews were rejected, the Gentiles were called to Christ. This one, however, denotes all who are like Him. It also signifies that not even one wicked person can lie hid in the day of judgment, or go away unpunished.
And he saith to him, friend (Syr. my comrade), &c. The word friend signifies that God will speak thus to the wicked, not out of hatred, or a desire to condemn them, but in a friendly manner, from zeal of justice. S. Jerome adds, he calls him friend, because he was invited to the wedding feast. Therefore he rebukes him for his impudence, because he came in a rude manner without a wedding garment. Whence S. Gregory says, “It is marvellous how he calls him friend, and yet rejects him.” It is as though he said plainly, “Friend, and not friend; friend by faith, but not friend by works.”
But he was silent. For, says S. Jerome, that was no place of denial; for God shall there “bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart,” according to the words, “I will search Jerusalem with candles.” (Zep_1:12).
The the king said to the waiters (i.e., the servants) his angels, as is plain from Mat_13:39. And as Daniel saith concerning them, “Thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.”
Bind his hands and feet, &c. This is an emblem, signifying that the damned cannot resist the sentence of God, nor from thenceforth do any good thing; altogether as if they had their hands and feet, their mouth and souls, their will and judgment bound. For as S. Augustine says (lib. II, de Trin.), “The binding of an evil will is a chain.” And S. Gregory says, “They who now are willingly in bonds to sin, shall then, against their will, be bound in punishment.”
Cast him into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. These are the teeth which delighted in gluttony, says S. Gregory. And again the same S. Gregory says appositely, “The inner darkness is the darkness of the heart; the outer darkness is the night of eternal damnation.
Many are called, &c. Because all who were first invited and refused to come were rejected, that is to say, all the Jews, who would not believe in Christ, to whom this parable bears special reference. Besides these, one was rejected, even of those who were called, and did come, who entered in, not having a wedding garment, who represents all wicked Christians. For inasmuch as Christ did not intend in this place specially to refer to these, it sufficed that by naming one, He should refer to that matter by the way, to signify that not all who believe in Christ shall be saved, but those only who adorn their faith with a wedding garment, that is, with love and holy works. This saying of Christ ought to raise great fear and awe. For no one knoweth whether he be elect or reprobate. Every one therefore ought to strive, by means of good works, to make his calling and election sure.
S. Gregory gives the example of his three paternal aunts. The first of these was named Tharsilla. She lived in holy virginity, and was called away to Heaven by her grandfather, who was already among the blessed, in these words, “Come, that I may receive thee into this mansion of light.” Then she, looking up, beheld Jesus, and cried aloud, “Depart ye, depart ye, Jesus cometh,” and so delivered up her soul to Him to be eternally blessed. The second sister, Emiliana, was called away to Heaven by Tharsilla herself on the Feast of the Epiphany; and being anxious about her third sister Gordiana, she answered, “And if I come alone, to whom shall I leave Gordiana?” Again she heard her sister’s voice saying, “Come, for Gordiana hath chosen her lot with the world.” For, shortly afterwards, Gordiana, forgetful of her consecration to virginity, married her bailiff.