Pope St Gregory the Great’s Homily on Matthew 22:1-14

1.  I remember having often said that in the holy Gospel the Church of God, as she is now, is called the kingdom of heaven, for the kingdom of heaven is indeed the assembly of the just. The Lord said by the mouth of His prophet: Heaven is My throne (Isa 66:1). Solomon says: The soul of the just is the throne of wisdom (Wisdom 7:27); and Paul says: Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24). From these passages we may clearly infer that, if wisdom be God, and wisdom s throne the soul of the just, and God’s throne the heaven, then the soul of the just is heaven. Hence the Psalmist, speaking of holy preachers, says: The heavens show forth the glory of God (Ps 19:1). The kingdom of heaven, therefore, is the Church of the just that is, of those whose hearts seek not for anything upon earth, but who so sigh for the things that are above, that God does already reign in them, as He reigns in heaven. Let it, then, be said: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son. You understand, beloved brethren, Who is this Royal Father of a Royal Son. It is indeed He to Whom the Psalmist says: Give to the King Thy judgment, O God, and to the King’s son Thy justice (Ps 72:1) Who made a marriage for His Son. God the Father made a marriage for God the Son, when He wedded Him to the human nature in the womb of the Virgin, when He willed that He, Who is God before all ages, should become Man in the end of the ages.

2. The union of two persons forms the marriage union; but God forbid that we should imagine that the one Person of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, Who is both God and Man, is formed by the union of a human person with a Divine Person. We profess that He is of and in two natures; but we shrink from the blasphemy of saying that in Him there are two persons. It will be clearer and safer to say that the marriage made by the Father for His Royal Son, was the joining Him, through the mystery of the Incarnation, to His mystic Bride, the Holy Church, and that the womb of the Virgin Mother was the bridal chamber in which this union took place. Hence it is that the Psalmist says: He hath set His tabernacle in the sun, and He as a bridegroom coming out of His bride-chamber (Ps 19:5-6). Indeed, the Divine Redeemer came out of the purest womb of the Virgin, to unite Himself with the Church chosen by Him as His Bride. He sent out His servants to call His friends that were invited to the marriage. He sent them out twice, to give us to understand that the preachers of the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God were first the prophets and after them the Apostles. The former an nounced this great mystery in prophecies only, whilst the latter preached to the nations announcing the same, yet being now fulfilled. The proof that the first invited refused to come to the marriage feast is contained in the words addressed to the second: Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. Come ye to the marriage. No mention of this fact was made in the first invitation; but afterwards it was said that the beeves and fatlings were killed, that everything was ready. For when we refuse to hear the words of God, He shows us by examples that, what we think impossible, becomes easy, as soon as we understand that others were able to do the things to which He invites us.

3. The invited guests neglected the invitation, according to the words of the Gospel, and went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise. The one going to his farm is a type of those persons entirely bent on this world’s business, whilst the other one represents those who give themselves up to temporal gains and profits. Now, since these two kinds of persons are intent on the cares and goods of this world only, they give no thought to the mystery of God made Man for the salvation of man; neither do they think of conforming their lives to the life of Jesus. It is, therefore, on account of these worldly goods and worldly interests that they refuse to come to the marriage. But what is still worse, they not only refuse to come, but despise the grace of God inviting them; for it is said: They laid hands on His servants, and, having treated them contumeliously, put them to death.

4. But when the King had heard of it, He was angry, and, sending His armies, He destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city. He strikes the persecutors, and destroys the murderers. He burns their city that is, the bodies, in which dwell these sinful souls, will be cast with them into the everlasting fire. The armies, sent to destroy the murderers, are the Angels of God sent with His thunderbolts to take revenge. For what are the hosts of Angels but the armies of our eternal King? Hence God is called the Lord of Sabaoth, and Sabaoth means hosts the Lord of hosts (Isa 1:9). The armies of God are composed of the countless multitudes of Angels ordered by God to execute the sentences pronounced against His enemies, and to destroy them. Our fathers heard the Son of God threatening the world with these terrible punishments, and we, their children, have witnessed their fulfilment. Where are now the cruel persecutors of so many holy Martyrs? Where are the proud princes who lifted up their arrogant heads against God, and boasted of their worldly glory? By the death of the holy Martyrs the Christian faith has been spread abroad throughout the whole world; whereas the remembrance even of their persecutors has disappeared with their sudden death. Behold the terrible effects of God’s wrath, which is spoken of in the parables of our Lord!

5. And the King, Who invites guests to the marriage of His Son, will easily fill the places of those who refuse to come. For should the word of God remain fruitless in many, it will yet find docile and ready hearts making good use of it. We read: Then he said to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready, but they that were invited were not worthy. Go ye, therefore, into the highways; and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage. And our Lord continues in the parable: And his servants, going forth into the ways, gathered together all they found, both bad and good, and the marriage was filled with guests. In these different kinds of persons brought to the marriage is seen an image of the Church, including both good and bad Christians. Are you among the good? then during all your life bear generously the presence of the bad. Be not frightened at the enormous number of the wicked, nor saddened by the small number of the just; for wide is the gate and broad the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in there at. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life; and few there are that find it! (Matt 7:13-14).

6. The King, says the Gospel, went in to see the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. What is the meaning of this wedding garment? It is charity. He that came to the marriage without a wedding garment had indeed the true faith, but he had not charity. It was with the garment of love that the Son of God came to celebrate the marriage union with His Bride, the Church, and in this bond of love He continues to be united with His elect. Thus St. John says: God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son (John 3:16). Our Saviour, having come to us in love, indicates clearly enough that the wedding garment, in which we are to appear at His marriage-feast, is true charity. Those among you, who believe and belong to the communion of the Church, but have not charity, are in the marriage-hall indeed, but are not covered with the wedding garment. When you are invited to a wedding, beloved brethren, do you not take off your everyday garments and put on your best? By this you intend to show the great interest you take in the happiness and joy of the bride and bridegroom. You dare not appear in garments by which you would be despised by the other guests. Yet, it is God Who invites you to His marriage feast, and you appear without the garment of love. Heaven resounds with songs of praise of the angelic choirs, when the elect are received into their company; but you, assisting by faith at their festivities you are not ashamed to appear without the wedding garment of love, by which alone you find favour with God and His Angels.

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One Response to Pope St Gregory the Great’s Homily on Matthew 22:1-14

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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