October 11, 2020: Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Matthew 22:1-10
Jesus spoke again in reply to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.
An envelope (or an email) arrives and we learn that we have been invited to a grand celebration. The occasion may be a wedding or a milestone anniversary celebration. It may be Vow Day or a Jubilee. The opportunity to celebrate with family and friends delights us and we look forward to the date.
Just recently, a friend sent me a YouTube link to a “Traditional Slovak Wedding.” Although the wedding is a contemporary one and, therefore, not like the ones both sets of my grandparents knew in their homeland, it was a great joy to watch. It included the procession of the bride and groom, their families, friends and neighbors from the bride’s home to the church and then to the reception. At the reception, the bridal party and all the guests enjoyed food, music, dancing and playful cultural rituals. I am sure that was most certainly the fulfillment of everyone’s expectation from the moment they received their invitation. They all seemed to truly share in the couple’s joy. In today’s gospel, however, those public displays and feelings of great joy are missing.
Continuing to use John Claypool’s framework of understanding parables as stories Jesus still tells (see the Reflection of Oct. 4, 2020), I pondered how we today respond to God’s gracious invitation to come to the feast that is the kin(g)dom of heaven. Do we respond joyfully and fully give ourselves over the kin(g)dom? Or, do we find that other activities have our attention and thus we use excuses to decline Jesus’ gracious invitation? Do we accept the call to be at a table of plenty where no one goes wanting and everyone is rejoicing? Jesus’ story reminds me that the invitation to be part of the kin(g)dom must be accepted or declined. So great is God’s desire for us to accept the invitation, to share in God’s joy, that God keeps extending it to us. And, this generous outreach is inclusive, “the bad and the good alike,” those located at the margins of society, as well as those who are found in “proper” places. The poverty or destitution of those described as being in the streets refers not just to material poverty but also to a poverty of hope, trust, companionship, etc. This is a story not just about the first century Palestine of Jesus’ day, but of all people, at all times, in all places and in all types of situations. And Jesus continues to engage others (as the servants were summoned in this Gospel story) to go out and invite “whomever (we) find, without judgment or partiality, to come and be part of this joyous celebration.
Perhaps this week, in prayer, we can listen for the invitation “Come to the feast!” and discern to what action is God calling me, calling us? How we are choosing to respond? Are there pre-occupations that impede our accepting God’s call to fully join in the feast? Who is God sending us to find and to bring to the feast? Who has been neglected, overlooked, excluded? Where can we find them and how can we make them feel welcome in the kin(g)dom of heaven where God shares God’s joy with all creation?