The readings today give us History transformed into parables that cannot be taken literally. The banquet in the Gospel is the Church of God’s Son to which the leaders of the Chosen People had been invited, only to make excuses for not coming. We are the bad and good people the servants have found along the main roads. If we go through Mass and Holy Communion thoughtlessly, we have become the invited guest who came without his wedding garment.
The first reading is a story about the wild man Jephthah who defeated the Ammonites in 1150 B.C.. Since no written records were kept at that time of Jephthah, the Bible account is merely a gathering of yarns that were put into writing centuries later.
The reading about Jephthah as we have it in today’s Mass, leaves off the first part of the story. The story actually began with a man who had sons with his wife, but then conceived Jephthah with a harlot.
Denying Jephthah a share in their inheritance, his brothers drove him off. Then, Jephthah, going across the Jordan, formed a band of notorious bad men, as he gained a name for fierceness in battle. So, when his family were besieged by Ammonites, they applied to Jephthah to save them .
Setting out to fight the Ammonites, the wild man Jephthah vowed to make a human sacrifice of the first person he met on his return from his victory. Unfortunately, the first person he met was his beloved daughter. Still, he had to keep his vow, and his daughter agreed to being sacrificed provided she had two months to mourn over never giving birth to a son. Having allowed her that, Jephthah slaughtered his daughter.
What a horrible story! The moral had something to do with keeping our vows. The story teller, catering to those who like ghost stories and blood-and-gut yarns, put these folk tales together to entertain the people at Solomon’s Court.
In reading the Bible we cannot approach it with expectations of hearing Sunday School stories . We must accept it for what it is: a collection of stories and poetry that recorded a most imperfect people’s clumsy attempts at knowing God.