Jesus on Salvation: the Parable of the Feast

{14:15} When someone sitting at table with him had heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is he who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
{14:16} So he said to him: “A certain man prepared a great feast, and he invited many.
{14:17} And he sent his servant, at the hour of the feast, to tell the invited to come; for now everything was ready.
{14:18} And at once they all began to make excuses. The first said to him: ‘I bought a farm, and I need to go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’
{14:19} And another said: ‘I bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to examine them. I ask you to excuse me.’
{14:20} And another said, ‘I have taken a wife, and therefore I am not able to go.’
{14:21} And returning, the servant reported these things to his lord. Then the father of the family, becoming angry, said to his servant: ‘Go out quickly into the streets and neighborhoods of the city. And lead here the poor, and the disabled, and the blind, and the lame.’
{14:22} And the servant said: ‘It has been done, just as you ordered, lord, and there is still room.’
{14:23} And the lord said to the servant: ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel them to enter, so that my house may be filled.
{14:24} For I tell you, that none of those men who were invited will taste of my feast.’ ”

Those who were invited to the feast, but who declined to attend, represent many Christians. They have received the invitation to the feast in the kingdom of Heaven by their formal baptism. But they become entwined in worldly things, lose interest in heavenly things, and they fall into actual mortal sin — losing the state of grace. So they do not enter the feast in Heaven.

However, the Father of the human family, God, has also invited the poor, disabled, blind, and lame. These represent persons who are not Christians; they do not have the formal invitation to Heaven implied by baptism with water. They did not receive baptism due to some failing, represented by the figure of disabilities. They had a sincere but mistaken conscience in rejecting Christianity, or for various reasons, short of actual mortal sin, they did not convert. They are able to enter the feast by a baptism of desire, and because their failure to receive formal baptism did not have the full culpability of actual mortal sin due to invincible ignorance.

Then there is still more room in the feast of Heaven, so the Father orders his servants to “compel them to enter” the heavenly house. And this path to the feast represents the baptism of blood. For those who die as martyrs for Christ, or as martyrs for any good cause (in cooperation with grace), but without formal baptism, are in a sense entering heaven by force — not as if against their will, but by the force of their martyrdoms. In addition, those prenatals, infants, and young children who die without formal baptism are also given a baptism of blood, so that they enter the state of grace prior to death. These souls too are among those in a sense compelled to enter, “so that my house may be filled.”

In this parable, Jesus is saying that many souls enter Heaven by a baptism of desire, and many also enter by a baptism of blood. But unfortunately, many Christians who could have entered, if they kept their baptismal vestment of grace, do not enter Heaven (due to unrepentant actual mortal sin).

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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