Inviting Others to the Banquet

Matthew 22:1-14

When Jesus told the parable in today's Gospel reading, he was addressing those who stubbornly refused to enter into a right relationship with their Messiah. Through the voice of the king who gave a wedding feast for his son, God the Father essentially says: "You have been invited to the Eucharistic banquet of the Savior, but you are saying no and therefore you're going to face (let’s say) less than desirable consequences. Others of you think you're religious enough to come as you are and don't need to change your ways.  Your consequences aren’t going to be all that much of a bargain either."

 

We have all experienced these sorts of invitees in our lives. It could be that we have invited them in to a relationship that includes a moral and Godly oriented friendship with us, but they have rejected us, or they’ve tried to befriend us under the terms of their own unhealthy immorality.

 

As Christians, we're called to bring Christ into the world by being invitational, open to new relationships so that we can reveal God's love to more people.  But what if the people we invite say no? Or what if they say yes for the wrong reasons, and are unwilling to be transformed into holiness - their hearts remain “stony” as the First Reading describes, and their moral compass remains off kilter.

 

Jesus shows us in this parable that God does not drag the unwilling into his celebrations. Sure, he gives people unlimited opportunities to repent and join his party, but his banquet is meant for real and true friends. Only the true friends of Christ want to be changed by the transforming power of his love. When people repeatedly say no to being in communion with him, they fall deeper into the pits that they've dug for themselves. God does allow them to meet up with the consequences they've created for themselves so that they eventually, hopefully, become desperate enough, and humble enough, to want to change.

 

God deals similarly with those who are (in essence) faking it- those who want God's love, kindness, patience, and eternal life, and who claim to be Christian, but don’t commit to the surrender that is necessary to be Christ-like. They come to Mass, or maybe even get involved in ministry, but lack the desire to be transformed by it. They profess to be something that they are not. And eventually, the costume that they’ve been wearing to the party gets removed.

 

Though earthly condemnation may or may not come their way, God tells them (as the king does in the Gospel), "ENOUGH! The feast is ready, but you are not worthy to come. You don't belong here and you can't trick me into thinking that you do. Maybe the consequences of your disloyal heart will awaken you to the truth, and humble you!"

 

Because we here today are true friends of Christ, we care about all those who have not gained access to the banquet of his love, and so we invite them to join us (that’s what we do), but we must not force them as if we're responsible for their decisions.

 

Similarly, we may know of someone who formerly joined us here at the celebration of the Mass, but has been so disillusioned by what they’ve seen in the Church that they have turned away. We mustn’t treat them with condemnation – they may just need to work through their emotions before coming back.  Sometimes all we can do is be living examples of the blessings that come from our friendship with Christ and involvement in parish life.

 

Sometimes the best of all invitations is through the joy we experience from being a part of celebrating his Eucharistic banquet. This a joy that is sure to show through and influence others, though we may never see the evidence of it here on earth.

 

As this parable shows us, we must not waste our time mourning the rejection and fakery of those who are unfit to join us in the banquet. If we follow God's example, we will go out again and again to seek those who really do want to be holy. We will go out of our way to make new friends, inviting both the good and the bad while letting the stubborn ones reap what they sow, so that we can enjoy the fellowship of those who take seriously the call to celebrate a Eucharist-centered life.

 

And so we pray, Dear Lord, guide us in our walk today. Help us to get through our own doubts and disillusionment. And help each of us be a part of the solution, as an extension of your hand, inviting others to a real and true relationship with you, to experience the joy of that communion with you at your banquet!

 

Amen!

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