For the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear another set of readings that offer an image of the kingdom of God and describe living out our relationship with God. They both center around a feast or a gathering of the community and some luscious descriptions of what is available at the banquet for those who come. Imagine what Jesus is saying to us, as He invites us to share in the eucharistic celebration of the community of the Church.
Whether it is on this holy mountain or at a wedding feast, the description is very similar. There will be delicious food and drinks, and someone else is preparing it for you. All you have to do is show up. But we are reminded in the Gospel that if we show up with no preparation, our hearts might be found in the depths of selfishness and self indulgence, rather than participation in a communal celebration.
We are given several excuses about why someone wouldn’t take up an invitation that seems so enticing. Who wouldn’t want to go to a feast that someone else prepares and is predicted to be the best meal ever? Rather than laughing off all the silly excuses that we use, let’s actually examine some of them to see if we use those excuses more often than we are aware.
Many people don’t like social gatherings. We have a comfortable life with everything that we need, and we might see other people as a bother. If I’m with other people, I have to listen to them, put up with them and respond to them when they ask something of me. So I just won’t go, or I may feel like I don’t even belong, despite the invitation. These kinds of excuses and many others keep us from responding to the invitation that God gives us all the time. Imagine the invitation to come to the eucharistic banquet. There is a meal that is prepared, a sacrifice that has been given and a guarantee that we will experience the presence of Jesus Christ in that gathering. We will hear the word of God, experience the gathering of people who share many of the same values and beliefs and be fed with the bread of life. Imagine saying, “No, thanks! I have better things to do.”
Audacity and arrogance are two characteristics that come to mind as we respond with our feeble excuses, but we use them all the time. When Jesus invites us to come to know Him better and experience a deeper relationship with Him, we say often “No thanks, I’m too busy.” In good times or bad, we hear the invitation of Jesus to come to Him, and yet we scatter to many other places before we go to Him in emergency. We claim with our words that we believe in Him, but the priorities of our life seldom reflect those words.
I think that many of us who attend the eucharistic banquet feel as if we are not clothed in the proper wedding garment. When in the presence of Jesus Christ, everything seems inadequate as we are gifted with eternal love. We strive to be more and more clothed in the robe of righteousness. We’ll find a closeness to Jesus that we never imagined. Any moment of preparation as we approach our celebration of the Mass will bear fruit in our relationship with Jesus.
As we read these words, we may be sharing the invitation at the first level. We are an invited guest and already know about the feast that awaits. What keeps us from saying yes to Jesus at the deepest level? We may experience hearing the second invitation. It is as if God is pleading with us to be one with Him in the Eucharist. Is that love and faithfulness too much for us, or can we say yes now? We may be hearing this invitation in the third group. We may not have previously experienced Jesus’ invitation to the banquet, but now we hear it. Will we say yes now? The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.