Through the concerted efforts of Isaiah, Paul and Matthew, this community is invited, today, to consider our response to God’s invitation to His feast.
In both the first reading and the Gospel, the joys of salvation are described in terms of a great banquet. Abundant, rich foods, choice wines will be lavished on every guest, who are honored by the invitation of their divine host. In order to participate in the feast, the invited need only show a hunger and willingness to be fed. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians wrote that his relationship with Christ was so sustaining and nurturing that it enabled him cope with every circumstance, whether feast or famine.
The Gospel parable today begins with an invitation. The King sends his servants to call those invited to the wedding banquet. But they refuse to come! When they didn’t respond the first time, the King gives them a second chance, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and my fatten cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the feast.’” But again, they refused.
It seems strange that the people in the Gospel do not come to the feast. They do not recognize what it is that they are turning down. This can happen also to us. Jesus’ parables have an uncanny knack of remaining relevant for over 2000 years. We can be sure that God’s invitation, and humanities rejection as response, are present today, in our world.
The parable talks about two types of people who refuse the King’s invitation.
The first group do not have a particular reason not to come to the feast. They are simply indifferent. They ignore the invitation and wander off, one to his farm, another to her business. These people hear the word of the King-the Word of God- but they did not find it worthy of a response. Maybe they thought that they themselves could prepare a nicer banquet, or perhaps they are waiting for a better offer. It could be that they expect a luxurious coach to pick them up and drop them at the Kings doorstep, because after all the King should be happy that they are even there.
It has been said that the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. Those who are indifferent to the Word are guilty of not loving God. Remember, the great commandment is “you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength”. (Deut 6).
What does it look like to be indifferent to the Word of God?
Indifference is when we treat God like a teenager does a parent, recognizing his presence but longing for him to leave us alone. Our indifference shows when we accept without even blushing the lies of politicians, everyday dishonesties, and the common immoralities of our times. Indifference is when we treat our faith not as central to our being, but something to be hidden away, ignoring Jesus’ call to revolution. Indifference is when we fail to take a stand, failing to speak up against prejudice, injustice, or oppression.
An indifferent attitude towards God denies the urgency to join the feast, the feast prepared for the bad and good. All are invited to savor a feast of transformation. Why do we delay or muffle our ears to the Word?
The second group of refuseniks go even further. They are not content to simply ignore, they feel they must mistreat and even kill the servants who bear the inviting Word of the King. This group does violence to the Word, violence to the Word of God.
What does it mean to do violence to the Word of God, to violently reject His invitation to the feast? We do violence to the Word when we call evil good and good evil (Isa 5). We call evil good when we accept blasphemy, prejudice, and violent behavior as a means to an end. We call evil good when we tolerate or even celebrate the destruction of innocent lives through abortion in the name of freedom.
We call the good evil when we buy into the lie that chastity and fidelity are old-fashioned and narrow-minded, vilifying God-given and time-honored moral values and principles. We call the good evil when we mock or allow others to mock our Catholic faith.
A hostile attitude towards God’s Word denies the very goodness of the feast. It places our own judgements above those of the Creator. All are invited to savor a feast of transformation. Why do we shout over and try to silence the Word?
My friends, the Kingdom of God is not just something in the future; Christ the King invites us right now to come to the great feast with every celebration of the Eucharist, to show us how much we mean to him and to lavish spiritual joy and refreshment on us. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether you will put on the wedding garment of righteousness or continue to spurn His invitation.
Today’s readings tell us that it is God’s nature to invite, and that it is humanity’s fallen nature to reject the invitation. God’s servants still go out into the world with the invitation to the good and the bad alike. Ask for God’s grace to unblock your ears and quiet your own shouting, so as to acclaim: “This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us”. (Isa 10)