The readings today show us what joy there is in accepting God’s invitations, and what sorrow there is in refusing. The word of God challenges us to examine our own response to his call. God extends to us the greatest invitation we will ever receive: “Come to the feast! Come to the banquet of eternal life!” Sooner or later, each of us has to give him an answer. Our RSVP can be either, “Yes, I am coming!” or “No, I will not come.” The choice is ours, and it has eternal consequences.
In the gospel, Jesus tells a parable directed to the chief priests and elders. A king arranges a wedding banquet for his son and sends out his servants to call the guests. Strangely, the invited guests flatly refuse to come. When the king tries again, those being invited treat the servants shamefully, even violently. When we first read this, it may sound absurd. People simply do not act that way when invited to a royal feast! Why would anyone respond so negatively when being invited to something so wonderful?
But the parable is not about an earthly wedding feast; it is about the kingdom of God. Jesus is exposing the disgraceful ways in which we respond to him. Like the invited guests, sometimes we simply refuse for no logical reason; we do not want to be bothered. When we hear God’s call – his word, his commandment, his prompting in the heart – we reject it without even considering it. At other times, we consider other things more important right now – our “farm” or “business” or any number of “high priority” matters. God’s will is simply not that important to us. Then there are the times when we have an outrageous reaction to God’s great invitation. We do not literally kill the messenger, but the word of truth can make us hostile and defensive. When we are called to repentance, we get angry. We act as if we have been imposed upon or insulted or threatened. Interiorly we fight, complain, ridicule, resist…. What at first seemed to be a rather absurd reaction of some strange people in a parable becomes, on closer inspection, a disconcerting reflection of our own heart.
God truly is like a king who wants to fill his banquet hall with guests. The blessings he has in mind for us are symbolized by the glorious feast so beautifully described in the first reading. The prophet Isaiah foretells “a feast of rich food and choice wines which the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples.” There is more to this feast than good food; this is a prophecy of eternal life. God promises that “he will destroy death forever.” The veil of mourning that enshrouds all peoples and nations, the tears shed by every generation, the web of death that ensnares every person, will be destroyed. What God is inviting us to is a victory celebration, a feast of everlasting rejoicing, a life without tears or mourning or death – everything we mean by the word “heaven.”
The divine invitation is extended to everyone, “the bad as well as the good.” We are not called because we are worthy, for no one is qualified to enter heaven. We are called because the King is so generous. Not only does he call us, but he also provides everything necessary for us to enter eternal life. Everyone who says “yes” to his invitation, the Lord clothes in a new garment of grace – represented by the white garment we received at Baptism. Therefore, it is not enough to merely say “yes” and then come still dressed in the clothes of our old self and of the world. If we are found “not properly dressed for a wedding feast,” we will be thrown out. As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21).
St. Paul, full of gratitude that he has been invited to the wedding feast and full of zeal to extend the same invitation to everyone, knows that God is the one who provides everything for his mission to bear fruit. We can hear Paul’s absolute confidence in God as we ponder these words from his Letter to the Philippians: “In him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything.” Paul knows from the ups and downs of his faith journey that accepting the Lord’s invitation can sometimes cost a great deal, so he assures us that God who has always provided for him will also provide for us. “My God in turn will supply your needs fully, in a way worthy of his magnificent riches in Christ Jesus.” Because of our confidence in the richness of grace and mercy bestowed on us, we can sing out with Paul and with all who join the eternal banquet: “All glory to our God and Father for unending ages! Amen!”
What is my response to the invitation of God? Do I act as though the will of God is important to me? Am I willing to trust that the Lord will supply all my needs?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 13, no. 8. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.