9 October 2011
Philippians 4.12-14, 19-20
A married couple received an invitation to attend the birthday celebrations of the wife’s brother who had just reached 50. But her husband refused to go saying that the last 4 or 5 birthday parties had been boring, a waste of time and besides he had something better to do with his time. When she arrived home he said to her, ‘well, I presume I made the correct decision not to go, boring as usual, was it?’ ‘On the contrary’, she replied, ‘you missed out on a terrific celebration. Maybe the most enjoyable birthday party I have ever been at. I would have regretted not going, never knowing myself what I would have missed’.
The parable in today’s gospel is about another celebration and the response of those who had been invited. We need to remember that in the culture of the time and the difficulties regarding travel, usually the invitations were sent out a long time before the actual celebration. So the invitees would have been well warned ahead of time. Then when the food and other preparations were ready the servants were sent out to inform the guests that everything had been prepared and ready so they could now attend.
But they weren’t interested. They had other claims on their time. Most of them did nothing wrong, they weren’t planning evil or scheming to do bad things. Simply they considered other things more important. One went to his farm, other to his business. Other calls, other voices were louder. We ourselves live in a world of amazing busyness. In banks or supermarkets, there is background music. Practically everywhere, sometimes even in church, we hear the sound of mobile phones ringing. Then we have satellite dishes for TV programmes. There is the computer as well as the Internet. How are we hearing the voice of God calling to us in our lives with all these making their own claims on our time? Then there is the future to be planned for, the children to be looked after. In the midst of all this busyness can we find time to respond to the invitation of Christ? Just as we have to tune into the radio to listen to the programme we want, even more so do we need to tune into the gentle voice of God calling us to respond to his invitation.
So why did the people who went to their farms and business not respond to the king’s invitation. Was it because they didn’t realise what they would miss like the husband in the story? Maybe they didn’t see it as a value more important than whatever else was on offer? Since the kingdom of God is compared to a wedding feast, a banquet, we have a weekly, even daily banquet on offer in the Eucharist. Do we make even time for the Sunday Eucharist? If not, maybe we don’t realise its value for nourishing us, for strengthening us on our journey through life. We may even find it boring, not very entertaining since most of the time radio, TV, video games, Internet seem so much more stimulating. This may be true for many people but the Eucharist is not only for what it can give us. We need also ask what do I bring to the Eucharist? How do I come to it? With a week of effort to live according to Christian values, meaning my attempts at forgiveness, justice to those around me, kindness etc.
The parable reminds us too that the invitation of God is to a wedding feast. His invitation is to joy. To think of Christianity as a gloomy affair, giving up everything which brings laughter, sunshine and joy is to mistake its nature. It is to joy that the Christian is invited; and it is that joy he is missing out on when he or she refuses the invitation.
The Good News of today’s gospel is that everyone is invited to belong to God’s kingdom, each of us is invited to the wedding feast, a symbol for heaven. No one is excluded. The parable was addressed to the Jewish leaders and they would have had no doubt was Jesus was saying. Responding or not God would choose others also. This was unacceptable to them. They assumed no Gentiles, foreigners or pagans would be invited. But God does not force anyone to enter. The invitation is his, the choice is ours.
This is seen in the second part of today’s gospel. The king had sent his servants to the crossroads to find everyone they could find to go to the wedding feast. But during the feast the king noticed someone without a wedding garment and he was expelled. What Jesus is telling us is that once we have accepted the invitation we must be different people since to believe in Christ is to be different. We need to live our lives in a different way; that is, according to gospel values. That is the wedding garment God invites us to put on. We need to clothe ourselves with the attitude of Jesus. There is no point in coming to worship God if we don’t feel obliged to live justice, truth or kindness. We can’t go to the Sunday Eucharist and offer a sign of peace if there is hatred in our hearts, if after the celebration we leave and act in an unchristian way. We are to clothe ourselves in truth, kindness, in forgiveness, compassion and honesty.
“Lord Jesus, despite our many failings we praise and thank you for inviting us to the wedding feast. May we clothe ourselves with your attitudes as a practical manner of expressing our gratitude. Amen”
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA