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The Wedding Feast

The fascinating thing about the parable of the wedding feast is how Jesus changes it from its original form, as spoken by him on a much earlier occasion. It’s more than just a change in its structure to adapt the lesson to a new set of circumstances, but the injection of a disorienting level of violence and vengefulness that was never there in the original. It’s like the difference between lovely modern tellings of the story of Cinderella as essentially a love story and the ancient account recorded by the brothers Grimm in which the mother and the stepsisters are punished at the “happy” ending of the story by having their eyes pecked out by birds.

And here we are at another blissful romantic denouement: a wedding. And once again, the putative happy ending – Cinderella coming into her own, and the Kingdom coming to the banquet table to feast in the house of God – is overshadowed by the brutality of the vengeance exacted against the Enemy. In the Gospel, the energy of this hatred is so strong that it bursts the allegorical bounds of the parable: a guest, supposedly recruited at the last minute from the highways and therefore unaware that he was even going to be attending a wedding, is condemned for being underdressed (which also contradicts the spirit of the original parable, which was all about the vanity of seeking prestige) and then cast, not into, say, the gutter, or the garbage pit, or even into prison, or any place that might exist in the world of the parable, but directly into Hell itself.

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