It has been noticeable that the banquet of programmes being offered by television companies since the onset of Covid 19 is starting to lose its allure. For obvious reasons programming schedules have been kicked into the ‘long grass’: It has become nigh on impossible to continue producing ‘soaps’ which are the ‘meat and 2 veg’ of daily television fodder, and although there is a certain romance in watching episodes of Coronation Street and Neighbours from the middle of the last century, personally, yawns stretch the face to grotesque images which would win first prize in the National Gurning Games.
To be fair, watching the News also has the same effect on me! I suppose some viewers or listeners eagerly look forward to the seemingly hourly promotion of the National Area League Table of Covid victims, but behind these statistics splattered over our TV screens, there lies the pain of bereavement and personal suffering which often cannot be put into words.
Not all ‘repeats’ or flash backs into television programmes cause facial and mental strain! Some are hilarious, and one can mock the victims of yesteryear from one’s armchair without causing offence. Ageing rockers from the 60’s belong to a category which I enjoy viewing. Archive film of ‘pop’ groups strutting their stuff in TV studios or on stage at ‘pop music festivals’ are a source of amusement and help me to relax. During those yesteryears, it looked as though many of these emaciated-looking pop stars had never had a square meal in their lives, and their bodily gyrations and pained facial expressions remind me of a favourite warning of my mother’s, who on seeing her children pull weird faces expressing disagreement or disgust over a parental command or chastisement would remark; ... ‘If the wind changes you’ll look like that for the rest of your life!’
Perhaps a greater joy for me than laughing at the fashion and the antics of youth from the past is seeing these rock stars as they are today. Many of them are in their 70’s. Some of them have retained their slim figure; others have let their figures collapse. Some still have fairly long hair albeit in various shades of grey, and others have no need of either hair brush or comb. In their youth they displayed a rebellious attitude, as senior citizens they seem to have acquired a dignity and maturity which makes them far more acceptable to society, .... even loveable! Of course they are people of my generation, and the only thing that kept me from the television studios is that I couldn’t play a guitar and never looked emaciated. I am embarrassed when I look at family photos from the 60’s and 70’s and dearly would love to shred them, but the rest of the family are determined to keep them all, some of which are in colour. I am fairly confident that none will appear on the programme ‘All our yesterdays!’
With the help of a healthy imagination, we leave the banquet of television programmes of recent times to attend the banquet prepared in today’s gospel as told by Jesus. He is talking to the people of his generation, the leaders of his generation, about the people of his generation; Jesus is accusing them of insulting the God they say they worship, and he isn’t making light of his subject as I have just done. There is no mistaking his criticism towards his listeners. They will be judged, the People of Israel will be judged according to their actions, and the responsibility for their actions is no one else’s but their own. His topic, is the ‘end times’, the final judgement, eschatology, and he has been emphasising the need for wisdom and prudence in their lifestyle, because when one stands before the judgement seat of God, it’ll be too late to go back in time and change. One cannot change what has happened in the past, one can only learn from it. And to bring the news up-to-date that includes slavery and ecology which are current topics of national importance.
To return to the subject, Jesus in this parable is telling them who they are and how they behave, and when they insulted the king by refusing to accept his generosity, they had sealed their fate. They made the wrong choice. The Jewish leaders, and the rest of the nation, had rejected the Messiah, and he tells them straight, that God will offer the seats at his banquet to the Gentiles. The banquet laid for Israel has been rejected; there will be no empty seats at God’s banquet, because they will be filled by the Gentiles, the poor and the sinners.
Jesus is asking them to repent, to change, but the people of Israel seem unable to do what Jesus is asking them to do. Ultimately, the banquet becomes a judgement on Israel, the People of God.
Who is the silent guest without a wedding garment? Some experts have suggested that it was Jesus who was silent at his trial? One assumes that the poor who attended couldn’t have afforded a wedding garment either and that a suitable wedding garment would have been supplied by the King for his other guests, so why not Jesus? Or perhaps Jesus was making the point that an earthly kingdom could never be compared with the heavenly kingdom!
Food for thought and meditation ... perhaps!