Sometimes when I watch TV, I not only pay attention to the program I’m watching, but also the commercials. Actually, I often speculate as to whom these commercials are targeted. Many people have commented that the commercials on the evening network news seem to be oriented towards older people. I can look at other commercials, and know that they are oriented towards people my age, drumming up nostalgia for us baby boomers. Other commercials are obviously trying to reach a younger demographic for an old established product.
When Jesus tells the parable about a king eventually having his servants bring people off the streets to come to the wedding feast of his son (Matthew 22:1-14), He reminds us that the invitation to the heavenly banquet is not just targeted to a particular demographic, but to everyone. In the parable, the servants gather all the people they can find, “bad and good alike.”
In the parable, the king does this because the invited guests refuse to come. In the parable there are three responses to the invitation. One response is to ignore the invitation. These people went instead to their farm or business. Another response is open hostility. These people mistreat and even kill the servants that the king sends. The third response is coming to the banquet but not being appropriately dressed. If we correspond the invitation to the wedding feast in the parable to the invitation by Jesus to follow Him to the kingdom of heaven, we see all three responses today.
There are places in the world in which there is open hostility to following Christ. There are people still being persecuted, even killed, for the faith. But for most, if not all, the people who will read this, this is not a response we normally see. Instead, we often see the other two. The people in the parable who ignored the invitation and went home to their farm or business are people who see other things, like making a lot of money, or having worldly power, as much more important than sharing God’s love or spreading the Good News. The guest who is not properly dressed does not represent those who we think aren’t dressed right for Mass. The guest who is not wearing a wedding garment represents for me those who say they are Christian but are unwilling to be changed by their faith. Their ideal religion is one that does not demand any conversion of heart.
Do we at times fall into one of these categories? That’s the question this parable presents to us. The invitation is there. It doesn’t matter whether we think we’re too far gone, or we think we don’t have the proper pedigree. God is still calling us and everyone to Himself! Listen to what God promises in our first reading for Sunday from Isaiah (25:6-10a): “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples … On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, … he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face.” God is telling the Israelites that He will do this for “all peoples!”
So, what is our response? Are we willing to see the kingdom as more important than what the world tells us is important? Are we willing to respond to the love God gives us through Jesus Christ? Are we willing to be changed by our relationship with Jesus? If we worry about what kind and how much of a response we can make, listen to St. Paul in our second reading from Philippians (4:12-14, 19-20): “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” God, in His love not only invites us to the heavenly banquet, but He gives us what we need to respond to the invitation! RSVP today!
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is on staff at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.