The Parable of the Invited Guests and the Three Forms of Baptism

{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.’ ”

This parable teaches us about the universal salvific will of God. All persons are offered salvation, but not all persons are saved, due to free will. They choose lesser goods or apparent goods over and above the path of salvation.

I interpret the different types of guests as representing the three types of baptism (water, desire, blood). The invited guests are those who are formally baptized with water. But when the father of the family says that no invited guests will taste of the feast, the meaning is not that all the baptized are lost, but rather that many baptized persons end up losing their gift of salvation.

Are only persons baptized with water saved? No. For the father orders that the poor, disabled, blind, and lame also be lead into the feast. This represents persons who enter the state of grace by a baptism of desire. They are poor in spirit. Their blindness is that of invincible ignorance. They have encountered various obstacles to formal baptism, as if they were disabled or lame. Or they suffer in cooperation with grace from literal poverty, disabilities, and other misfortunes. They enter the state of grace by means of the Beatitudes.

But then the servant says there is still more room in the feast. The universal salvific will of God desires even more persons to enter Heaven. And so the Lord says that some souls will even be compelled, figuratively, to enter the feast. This represents the baptism of blood. The classic example of a baptism of blood is the catechumenate martyr, who is compelled in the sense that he does not choose to be martyred, he merely accepts it rather than deny the faith.

But I understand the baptism of blood to be much more extensive, so as to fulfill the universal salvific will of God. All prenatals, infants, and young children who die at that age, without a baptism of water, receive a baptism of blood. They are compelled in the sense that they are given the gift of salvation without any decision on their part.

The three forms of baptism are also a reflection of the three persons of the Trinity. And this, again, indicates the extensiveness of all three forms in saving souls. The baptism of desire and the baptism of blood are not rare or uncommon. Each is full, so that the feast of heaven may be full.

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

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