28th Sunday of Ordinary Time-A
In weeks past, we have heard Jesus’ parables teaching us the expectations of the Kingdom of God. Recall how Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy times seven because God forgives everyone endlessly, and we should emulate his forgiveness.
The following week, the lesson was about God’s generosity, which is extended to those who come to the vineyard at the end of the day and those who start at the beginning.
Next came the two sons, one who placated his father with no intention of serving him, while the other objected at first and finally did the father’s will.
Then, there was the teaching about the evil tenants who killed the landowners’ son and were untrustworthy of the gifts given to them.
If we try to live a good Christian life, we are aware we must forgive one another, albeit challenging at times. We know our sense of justice must be tempered and allow God’s generosity to flow to those we may think are not worthy of generosity. We try to live by not giving God lip service with no intention of obeying his commands. And, heaven forbid we engage in violence and blasphemy against God.
Today’s message can be more easily rationalized than the others but equally important to the Christian life.
Jesus tells a story about a king who invites people to his son’s wedding, but some refuse to come. In response to their recalcitrance, he sent his servants a second time to the farm owner, and the businessman also turned down the request. Their refusal means their affairs are more important than sharing in the king’s banquet. They believe that the king’s invitation is not worth their time. As a result, they insult the king and cut themselves off from what the king was offering them.
The worst of the group took the king’s servants and killed them, showing their open disdain and hate for the king. In response to the ultimate disrespect, the king soon annihilated those murders.
The parable of the king’s banquet is essential because it plays out every time and place where the invitation of God is ignored or met with violence and murder. After all, our history reminds us of the martyrs who invited others into God’s banquet and paid with their lives.
There are many different types of refusal, as the parable shows, and the rejection of the invitation is not always as dire as life and death. Nevertheless, refusing to attend the banquet will affect all who ignore the warning.
God extends His invitation to all, and some people believe their business is much more important than coming to the banquet God has prepared.
Then, there are the people who make excuses, as did the first group of invitees in the parable. Their excuses are, “I am so busy with work I do not have any time for God,” or “God will understand if I miss one weekend because I want to sleep in late,” or even “I first had other things to take care of today, and I just forgot to give time to God in prayer.” We have heard them all.
In real terms, the invitation to the Eucharist each week is largely ignored by too many who identify as Catholics. They refuse and rationalize why they shouldn’t share in the king’s life by concluding there is something better to do than spend time with God.
These can be likened to the landowners and businessmen who may have thought there was plenty of time to go to a banquet, but time ends without warning for every person.
The parable ends with the king inviting all who would come, the good and bad alike until the hall is filled. It comes with an ominous tone by chastising the one who went to the banquet not dressed for the occasion. This person was bound hand and foot and cast out into the streets, where he wailed and ground his teeth.
We can think that the king is being unreasonable. After all, the man was invited at the last minute, so he likely did not have time to change. However, this man is no better than those who initially refused the invitation. The invitation has expectations and demands proper apparel.
When we were baptized, we were clothed in Christ, wearing the garment of holiness and vowing to live according to the dictates of the Gospel. Simply put, a person cannot live however he wants and expect to be a cherished guest at the banquet because to live in God means being his friend, not his enemy. Accepting the invitation is one thing. We must also be willing to take on the duties and obligations God expects of those who accept His invitation.
God’s banquet offered through his gift of the Eucharist does what all banquets strive to do. It is the openness to share one’s life with his guests. God wants to share his life with ours. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” His invitation through the Eucharist epitomizes the dynamic of sharing life.
Regardless of who we are, God has welcomed the good and the bad. All God asks in return is that those who have accepted His invitation accept the way of life He teaches. May we who have responded to God’s call be made worthy to share in the banquet of life that God has now prepared for us.