An Inopportune Invitation
'There was a man who gave a great banquet, and he invited a large number of people. When the time for the banquet came, he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, "Come along: everything is ready now". But all alike started to make excuses. The first said, "I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it. Please accept my apologies." Another said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies." Yet another said, "I have just got married and so am unable to come.” … Then the householder, in a rage, said to his servant, "Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame." …“I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall have a taste of my banquet”.’ (Luke 14:16-24)
In this parable, in the context of the moment, Jesus was illuminating the Jew’s rejection of God’s invitation, and how society’s outcasts will replace them as his Chosen People. This is dangerous to know, as it gives us cause to think it has nothing to do with us today. His parables however, and the bad actors within, have everything to do with us today. Their purpose is to disarm our pretences with a story, so that Truth may convert our hearts.
It is not a great leap to see in this parable, that Jesus is also expressing his sadness for those today: who decline the Feast of his Body and Blood; or, for the Lost, who have no taste for his Eternal Banquet. This insight too is dangerous, as we still may think he is not speaking to us who are hungering for things that do not fill. And there is yet another Banquet to which he is calling us.
When the contemporaries of Christ broke bread together, it was much more than a social gathering. It was a mingling of blood -it made you brethren. So it is understandable that they were shocked by Jesus eating with the Pharisees. But he was not scandalized then for commingling with sinners, nor is he today. He still is the Physician who comes not for the healthy, but for the sick; and because we do not recognize our sickness, we also do not heed his invitation sup with him –to commune with him in our hearts; to receive his Quiet Presence; to consume his Words; to be consumed by his Love. This is the Banquet to which we are called every day of our lives and forever -to share the intimacy of his Love in the communion of prayer; where we exchange sacred words and thoughts and secrets of heart.
Unlike in other parables, where the bad actors are conniving hypocrites, here, they –the Invited Guests- are normal, happy, hard working people, not unlike us. They just all happened to be caught in a moment of fulfilling a dream of their life. There was no crime, or immorality, or flaw in their character. Their misfortune was that they were blessed with fortune. They were so excited about it they could not be bothered by an inopportune invitation -to celebrate with the God of their blessing. They were not guilty of premeditated sin; they were guilty of an unexamined life. They failed to see that their dreams could not compare with God’s Dream for them. They were too distracted by life to take time to commune with the God who gives them Life.
Jesus then, was not expressing vengeful indignation when he said …“I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall have a taste of my banquet.” These Words are not cold and cruel; they are to the contrary, sorrowfully mourning the rejection of those who could not recognize the Voice of his Father. He was only verbalizing the fate of unexamined lives –of those who could not comprehend the privilege of his invitation, who submitted to the tyranny of the moment only to forfeit Eternal Joy.
Indeed, in the end, it was the Fortunate and the Comfortable who mindlessly rejected the invitation into God’s Presence –who believed their own excuses; and it was the Sick and the Poor whose desperation made them hungry for the Master’s Banquet –whose suffering opened their eyes to God’s Grace.
Lord Jesus, every moment, every heartbeat is a privilege to be lived in your Grace. I am attracted to trivialities. I easily wander. I am too small to grasp the grandeur of your Will. Commingle your heart with mine -that I may live in you, with you and for you. Holy Spirit, open my mind to Father’s Plan for my life. Teach me to sit at the feet of my Lord; to exchange hearts with him; to receive him; to thank him; to worship him; to be possessed by his Love –to say yes to it with every breath.