GOD’S LOVING INVITATION AND OUR RESPONSE!!!
Today’s Scripture readings offer us a standing invitation to the everlasting joy of the Heavenly banquet and a loving warning to stay ever ready for this Heavenly banquet by constantly wearing the wedding garment i.e., remaining in a state of grace by avoiding sins and by doing good.
In today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah and in today’s psalm, the Lord’s goodness is evident in the symbol of a feast of good food and wine. The Prophet tells us that God will provide a banquet for all peoples. Everyone is invited. God wants all to be saved. God will destroy death forever. All will rejoice that God has saved us. God wants us all to be saved and that should always be our prayer for our sisters and brothers. May they be the person that God has created them to be: and if they are better than we, so be it. There is enormous competition in our world—and so many, perhaps even ourselves, want to be ahead of others. Such desires destroy our humanity.
In our second reading today, Paul makes two important and very true statement. First, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” This is Paul’s source of contentment. Therefore, like him we must respond to the Lord’s invitation to be at his banquet and divine presence where all good things are made available for our contentment. He is contented with his place in Christ Jesus and so nothing bothers him. Second, “The Lord will fulfill all your needs in Christ Jesus.” Here, Paul was appreciating both God’s goodness and the generosity of the Philippians towards him.
Immediately after criticizing the religious leaders through the parable of the tenants in last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus proceeded to tell another parable, again directed at the religious leaders. In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus offers an image of the kingdom of heaven using the symbol of a wedding banquet. Jesus’ listeners would have been familiar with the image of a wedding feast as a symbol for God’s salvation. We are all invited! Are we going to respond to the invitation of Jesus? God wants us. God also invites us to live in a way given to us by Jesus Himself.
They would consider themselves to be the invited guests. Keeping this in mind helps us to understand the critique Jesus makes with this parable. The context for this parable is the growing tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. This has been the case for the past two Sundays and will continue to be true for the next several weeks.
The first invitees did not come to the party; they didn’t have the heart to abandon their interests, the field, and business. The lesson it bears is the fact that out of the quest for the mundane many of us like the first invitees have rejected God’s invitation. The reason is simple! We are too busy to come to his mountain, there is no time for prayer, but we have time for the mundane. They did not need a banquet; they felt satiated, believed that they already have what is needed for a life without problems. They represent the spiritual leaders of Israel, satisfied with the given religious structure that offered them security before men and before God.
With the invited guests now deemed unworthy to attend the king’s wedding feast, the servants are sent to invite whomever they can find. The guests arrive, but it appears that accepting the king’s invitation brings certain obligations. The guest who failed to dress in the appropriate wedding attire is cast out of the feast. We are reminded that while many are invited to the kingdom of heaven, not all are able to meet its requirements. God invites us to his feast, giving us his salvation. Yet he asks us to repent for our sins.
However, the presence of good and evil in the Church is a theme taken up by Matthew. One who enters into the kingdom of God does not immediately become perfect. He brings with him all his miseries, weaknesses and moral infirmity. The people of God are made up of people who are bad and good. It is a field where they continue to grow with the wheat and tares, a net that brings together all sorts of fish.
The very crucial point of it all is that we come to God’s party, His banquet life, not because we have earned a right to be there, not because we can buy an invitation, not because our friends have good political influence with Him, but simply because He gives us entrance out of His free generosity. The enjoyment of life comes to us from God’s free choice and totally because of His sheer generosity.
The bad as well as the good are at the party. All are predestined to attend. All are there with new faces, as new persons with new beginnings because the forgiveness of God has made them new again, new persons with new histories and new beginnings. All of our past mistakes and our sins are blotted out because we are wearing new visages, new costumes, because we are wearing His wedding garments, clothed with His gifts. God’s judgment is His mercy.
Now the difficulty comes in our response to God’s invitation to His party. After all is said and done, God offers and we respond. He wants us to have a good time, a joyful time with Him in His world, in the life He has given us. The difficulty is found in those who sit off in the corner in some form of apathy and disinterestedness. Muttering and sulking about their present situation and not availing themselves of the opportunity to enjoy God’s love and faithfulness.
Also, there are those who simply are not willing to take up the responsibility that comes with answering the invitation of God. God created us without our consent; God wrought salvation for us of His own volition and not out of compulsion, but God cannot save us without our cooperation; He expects us to be responsible in receiving His free invite. Such persons who do not seek to live up to the responsibility join God’s celebration of life, without a wedding garment, the garment that is being clothed with Christ.
The new life of the Christian is often compared in the New Testament to a new dress, worn on the day of baptism. It is not enough to have received the sacrament; one needs to assume the appropriate behavior. One cannot present oneself with the rags of old life: adultery, dishonesty, disloyalty and moral debauchery. One cannot be content to put a new patch on the old garment but needs to completely revamp the kit. It must set life on the altogether new values. The purpose of the evangelist is to remind Christians of the seriousness of which they assume and carry out their baptismal commitments.
Ultimately, when at the end of our lives we are judged by God, He will see our humanity in the humanity of his Son. He will judge us in that way. But that means that we have to come to God’s banquet table of life properly dressed, dressed that is in the wedding garment offered us by his Son. It means putting off our old clothes of self-sufficiency, independency, and grand isolation. It means putting on the wedding garment of acceptance, acceptance of ourselves in the limitations and imperfections we have, acceptance of our need for forgiveness, acceptance of the gift of His Son offered to us by God our Father. Our destiny is there. But the consequence of our life rests in our own decisions. What will be the sum total of our life’s decisions when we die? What grand decision will they all add up to? To know the answer to that question we have only to examine the pattern of our daily living and our willingness to receive the gifts of God, the gifts of life and the gifts of others that come to us in this life.
The Holy Eucharist (Mass) is also banquet where many are invited to the table of the Lord to partake. Our happiness depends on our response to this free, open and generous invitation. Life is a celebration and it is about celebrating the goodness and providence of God. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). Join always in this banquet, but never forget to put on the right garment!
Prayer – Lord, help me always to be responsive to your invitation by a worthy way of life. Amen!!!