Matthew 22:1-14 | 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Of Creased Tunics and Wrinkled Hearts
My marriage improved dramatically when I finally realized that my husband literally didn’t see the clothes dropped on the floor, the dirty dishes in the sink, and the dog hair coating the sofa. I was hyper-aware of all these transgressions and petrified someone would drop by before they were dealt with. How could he leave that mess for me to deal with every time? Then I realized. He didn’t see it. It wasn’t stuff he didn’t want to do and so left for me; it was stuff that didn’t matter to him.
Similarly, our outward appearance matters so little to Jesus that He doesn’t even see it. Instead, Jesus looks for the lasting inner change that transforms our relationship with the world. The Parable of the Wedding Feast is another in the series Jesus tells to remind us that we can look like we’re doing everything right and still not get it. We can concentrate so hard on how we look and what we do that we fool ourselves into believing we have all our bases covered.
Throughout scripture, God makes it clear that He doesn’t judge by physical appearance. In the Old Testament, God chooses King David by warning, “Man sees the appearance, but God looks into the heart” (1Sam 16:7). Zacchaeus, a pariah as a tax collector, was also “short in stature” (Luke 19:3) yet Jesus chooses to dine with him. In reference to His healing on a Holy Day, Jesus admonishes, “Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly” (John 7:24). And the list goes on.
So, why then is the wedding guest thrown out of the feast because he came without being dressed in a “wedding garment” (Matt 11:12-13)? If Jesus truly looks past our outer appearance, why does the guest’s attire even bear mentioning?
Perhaps “the wedding garment” is not the man’s outer clothing. He may well have been dressed for the feast, but I’m not so sure his heart matched his festive finery. This guest may well have had his tunic creased in all the right places, but how wrinkled was his heart?
When our hearts are right, they shine right through the wrinkles and the age spots. They transform our outward appearance and make us pleasing to God and to anyone who cares to look beyond the exterior. The wedding guest may have had a couture tunic made just for the feast, but it meant nothing if his actions didn’t reflect the person he claimed to be.
While I can’t say messes don’t bother me any more, I have gotten better at letting some things go. Now the newspapers tend to pile up, cat hair is everywhere, and I don’t even go into the kids’ rooms. I was lamenting the pile on the kitchen table to a friend the other day. She looked at me funny. “You live in your house, right? That’s what it’s meant to be—a place where your family can be who they are meant to be.”