Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Matthew 22:1–14
Months ago, I splurged on a lovely dress that is now hanging in a plastic garment bag in my closet, unworn. I had spent countless hours thinking about what to wear to a much-anticipated wedding. Determined not to show up underdressed, I had been planning my wardrobe for months.
But instead of celebrating the bride and groom, I spent the wedding day sitting by my mother-in-law’s hospital bed in her final days of life. Mum had always dressed elegantly, paying attention to details like color, fabric, and cut. But now, her beautiful clothes and jewelry had been traded for a simple hospital robe. As Mum prepared to encounter the One who had made her and was calling her home, what she was wearing didn’t matter so much anymore. And instead of her signature White Linen perfume, she was being anointed with oil as the priest gave her the last rites.
My mind travels to that recent memory when I think about this Sunday’s gospel reading. Matthew 22:1–14 is the parable of the wedding feast. As Jesus prepared to teach an important lesson about what to wear when it matters most, He described a king giving a wedding banquet for his son. After inviting many who declined to come, he opened the doors even wider and invited everyone from the streets. Next, he inspected the dress of everyone in the banquet hall. His eyes went to a man who was not dressed as he should have been. He wasn’t wearing a wedding garment and, as a result, was thrown out of the wedding feast.
What was it that he was supposed to be wearing? We discover the answer in Isaiah. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,” writes Isaiah, “my soul shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10). The wedding garment referred to in Matthew 22 is this garment of salvation of Isaiah 61—the robe of righteousness. It’s a symbol of the right to enter and belong in the banquet hall of heaven. Peter Kreeft explains that Jesus is that entrance ticket—our required wedding garment. “When we die and show up at the gates of heaven, and God asks us why he should let us in, our answer should not begin with the word ‘I’ but with the word ‘Jesus.’”
It’s worth noting that we naturally begin with the word “I.” Humility does not come easily to us. But the conversion of heart necessary for salvation isn’t possible without humility. This begins with the recognition of our desperate need for a savior. Romans 6:23 states that “the wages of sin is death.” When we hear this, we might be tempted to justify our behavior or compare ourselves with others. We might think to ourselves, “I’m not a murderer. I’m not as bad as this or that person. If someone were to put my good deeds and bad deeds on a scale, my good ones would outweigh the bad. So surely I am good enough? I don’t deserve death!” This would be the equivalent of the man at the wedding feast arguing that his outfit wasn’t that bad.
When this is our line of thought, we are missing a very important truth:
Just one sin is enough to separate us from a holy God.
Just one sin is enough for us to deserve death.
Even our best efforts to do good fall short of what God has required for us to enter the wedding feast.
Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” If we come to God thinking that we are going to be accepted by Him based on our “good conduct,” He will point out that our righteousness is nothing compared to His infinite holiness.
Saint Therese of Lisieux understood this well and wrote,
“In the evening of my life I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You to count my works. All our justices are stained in Your eyes. I want therefore to clothe myself in Your own justice and receive from Your love the eternal possession of Yourself.”
She recognized that her works, her best efforts, wouldn’t be enough to earn salvation. Salvation cannot be earned. It’s a free gift. Saint Therese accepted this gift and said that if her justices or righteous deeds were stained, then she wanted to clothe herself in Christ’s own justice. We see this described in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus accomplished this on the cross. Every sin committed, past, present, and future, was placed on Him. That is what we give Him—our sin. And He responds by giving us the robe of righteousness—His own virtue.
When you come before God in prayer and acknowledge your need, God looks into your heart. He says to you, “My precious child, you don’t have to pay for your sins. My Son, Jesus, has already done that for you. He suffered so that you wouldn’t have to. I want to experience a relationship of intimacy with you. I forgive you. Jesus came to set you free. When you open your heart to me, you become a new creation! The old you has gone. The new you is here. If you will stay close to me, and journey by my side, you will begin to experience a transformation that brings joy and freedom. I’ve been waiting to pour my gifts into your soul. Beloved daughter of mine, remain confident in me. I am your loving Father. Crawl into my lap. Trust me. Love me. I will take care of everything.”
This is conversion of heart. This act of faith lifts the veil from your eyes and launches you into the richest and most satisfying life. You don’t have to be sitting in church to do this. Don’t let a minute pass before opening your heart and inviting Him to come and dwell within you. Invite Jesus to wrap His robe of righteousness around your shoulders.
With you on the journey,
Food for thought or journaling…
In what area of life am I justifying my own behavior instead of throwing myself on God’s mercy?
Dear Lord, I come to You with empty hands and ask You to fill them with Your virtues. Strip away my self-righteousness and help me to see my need for You. Amen.
 Peter Kreeft, Food for the Soul, Cycle A (Park Ridge, IL: Word on Fire, 2022), 712.
 Saint Therese of Lisieux, “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love,” June 9, 1895.
 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36.
 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
 “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:25–26.