In the Name…
A little girl had just heard the story of Jesus turning the water into wine at Cana of Galilee. When her parents asked her what she had learned from that story she said, "When you have a party it's a good idea to invite Jesus."
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget how often Jesus went to parties, but as we thumb through the Gospels, we see Jesus is frequently at some festivity or other. He attends a wedding reception and increases the beverage supply. He dines with social outcasts and Pharisees, alike. There is the picnic he supplied on the hillside for over 5,000 people and there was the quiet breakfast on the beach for a few friends. Even after the Resurrection, in the Upper Room, Luke records, as the disciples stood in amazement, Jesus asked, “What’s for supper?” And, all this eating and drinking is a foretaste of the greatest and happiest banquet of all; the big party in heaven foretold by the prophets – a feast of rich food and well-aged wines laid on for all people of all nations.
"So, the Kingdom of heaven is like this," Jesus begins today’s parable. "Once there was a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son. He sent his servants to tell the invited guests to come to the feast, but they did not want to come." Now, that’s pretty straightforward. "No, thanks. Not interested."
I know what I would do if someone replied like that to an invitation I had sent out. I would say “How rude. Now, I know who my friends are.” But in the parable, the king does something very generous and gracious. He sends the servants out to give those invited a second chance. Come on guys. This is going to be the blast of the century. You’d be a fool to miss it.
Alas, the world is full of fools and those invited began to make excuses. Actually, I remember an old Sunday School song about this parable that went, “I cannot come to the banquet. Don’t bother me now. I have married a wife. I have bought me a cow.” Makes you wonder what the lyricist was thinking.
But don’t we all make excuses why we can’t do this or go to that? We probably make at least one excuse a day and most days we make so many we couldn’t begin to count them. And, we can be so creative. Unexpected guests; car trouble; I have to buy the decorations for the dog’s birthday party.
In the parable, well, maybe the new field really needed attention, or the new team of oxen had to have a work out, and what better reason than wanting to spend an evening at home with your new wife or husband. It’s not that the excuses given weren’t valid, but how important were they in comparison?
I mean, Beethoven could have used his deafness as an excuse to stop composing. Lord Nelson could have retired from the Navy after losing his arm. FDR could have quit politics. And, Doris Taylor, an Australian who suffered a spinal injury which put her in a wheelchair for life, could have said it was all too much to start what we now call Meals on Wheels.
So, we have to stop and think about what is important and what can wait. And, we especially have to do this when it comes to our relationship with God.
We receive invitations from Jesus all the time. He invites us to pray for others. He invites us to the altar to receive his Blessed Sacrament. He invites us to see his hand at work in the world about us and he invites us to join our hands with his in visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, helping those who have fallen on tough times.
Are any of the things that fill up our life, to such a degree that we say we don’t have the time to respond, as important as what he invites us to share?
Of course, we are busy people. We have our work, our leisure, our families and we could list a whole lot of excuses, but Jesus is saying in his story that those invited might also have all had good reasons why they couldn’t accept, but there was no reason good enough, or important enough, to ignore the king.
So, now the king goes to Plan B. He calls his servants and says to them, "My feast is ready, but the people I invited did not deserve it. Go to the streets and invite as many people as you find.” So the servants go out and gather all the people they can find, good and bad alike; and the wedding hall is filled.
Now, did you notice that very important detail? The “good and the bad” alike were both invited. That means what we might call the “high and low” - people of good, or high estate, and those of bad, or low. In other words, rich and poor. This was important, back then, because it was a common Jewish teaching that rich people were specially blessed and poor people were specially cursed. So, by saying that the king is happy to see both, Jesus is saying that it’s all about the individual’s response to the king regardless of family background or social rank. Blessings and curses are not reflected in material possessions.
So, there you have it, a hall filled with people, rich and poor, but who share a spiritual awareness. Frail and fallible creatures, to be sure, but all for whom Jesus died, rose, and reigns. Yes. It is a good thing to be at a party with Jesus. The feast is ready, and we are the honoured guests.
In the Name…