(Please note: Homilies will not be posted till I return (Nov 10th) after my vacation )
Is 25:6-10a; Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt 22:1-14
An old couple, having been married almost 60 years, died in a car crash. They had been in good health for the previous ten years mainly due to the wife’s interest in health food, and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and master bath suite, Jacuzzi and lavish buffet breakfast. “How much can we eat?” asked the old man. “Don’t you understand?” Peter replied. “This is Heaven, it’s all free!” After a sumptuous breakfast the old couple went to the clubhouse of Heaven’s extensive golf grounds and saw the lavish buffet lunch. “Well, where are the low-fat and low-cholesterol tables?” the old man asked timidly. Peter replied, “That’s the best part…you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven.” The old man looked at his wife angrily and said, “This is all your fault. If it weren’t for your bran muffins and sugar-free diet, I could have been here ten years ago!”
Food is used in all three readings today as an image of God’s favor and presence with His people. In the first reading Isaiah describes the Messianic banquet on the Lord’s mountain. The prophet sees the mountain of the Holy City transformed into a grand banquet hall full of life and good things. He paints the picture of “a feast of rich food and choice wines.” The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 23) describes how, like a totally committed shepherd, God spares nothing in order to provide nourishment for His flock.
In the second reading Paul says that he lives like a guest invited to the Kingdom of God, enjoying vast spiritual benefits as a man of Faith. So will God provide for us, he assures us, and we can do all things in God who strengthens us. In the Gospel, Jesus describes the eschatological banquet of Heaven in the parable.
Our God is a God of invitation. A God who is constantly inviting all people into relationship, inviting all to share in divine life and love.
God sends us personal invitations. We call those invitations the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and those invitations arrive in the concrete circumstances of our lives. Every person here who is a regular smoker has the general knowledge that tobacco is harmful and should not be used. But every once in a while, you receive a personal invitation from God to stop smoking.
The violence in the parable is not describing God. It is, however, telling us something very important about the choices that we make.
When we choose to refuse a personal invitation of God, there are consequences. Those consequences can sometimes be quite violent and destructive. In short, there is a price to pay for saying, “no.” When over and over again you refuse the personal invitation to stop smoking, God is not going to punish you, but you might be facing a future that includes a violent and painful death from cancer. When you refuse the invitation to take some action to heal your marriage, God is not going to attack you, but your choice might well lead to a life that is empty or to the upheaval of divorce.
God will not punish us, but life will. You know the things to which God is calling you. You can remember all the personal invitations that have been sent to you time after time in the past. This liturgy might be another invitation to add to the list. Do not set those personal invitations aside. Do not imagine that there will be time for another chance tomorrow. Accept the invitation that has been sent. Respond to life today.
The parable also tells us something important about ourselves and our own worthiness to accept God’s call. The king in the parable is constantly inviting people to come to the wedding banquet of his son. But, no one wants to come. Finally, in frustration he says, “Look, the dinner is ready., but those who were invited were unworthy.” What does it mean in the world of this parable to be “unworthy”? It is simple. Unworthiness consists in refusing the invitation.
Underlying this parable is a fundamental, theological belief that the invitation of God is supreme. It is really the only thing that matters. Our worthiness, our successes and our failures do not count as much as God’s call. Therefore, worthiness does not result from all the good things that we have done, but simply from our willingness to say “yes” to the invitation. Unworthiness is not determined by the mistakes and sins that we have committed, but simply our stubbornness in refusing to come to the wedding banquet.
God invites us, and worthiness depends upon whether we say “yes” or “no” to that invitation. To say this in another way, God does not love us because we are good; we are good because God loves us.
This parable is obviously about invitations: invitations to the banquet of life, invitations to the feast in the Kingdom of God. Invitations are significantly different from general knowledge. Many people possess general knowledge, but an invitation is personal and concrete and it demands a response. I am sure that in the world of the parable, every person knew that the king was holding a wedding banquet for his son. But that general knowledge was quite different from a personal invitation to attend.