14 and 15 October 2017 Twenty Eighth Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
My sisters and brothers in Christ.
Jesus continues to instruct the “chief priests and elders of the people” using parables.
The parables generally take a common human experience:
lighting a candle,
harvesting a crop,
planting a seed or
as in today’s parable, being invited to a wedding feast.
A parable tells us that this experience is like something else.
Today’s parable tells us about being invited to or into the Kingdom of God is like being invited to a wedding feast.
A parable helps us think about and puzzle out what is similar between a wedding feast and a banquet like the one described in the First Reading today from the prophet Isaiah.
There is often at a wedding “rich food”, “choice wines”, few reproaches and great joy.
There is also the matter of inviting family and friends and friends of friends to the wedding and the wedding feast that follows.
In some cultures the wedding feast takes a week or more to be properly celebrated.
When I hear today’s parable it reminds me of the invitation to all of the priests in Oklahoma in early 1984 to minister in Santiago Atitlan, Solola Guatemala which had been without a resident priest for three years since the death of Father Stanley Rother.
I received the same letter every other priest did.
The letter asked “Would you be willing to serve?”
I wa acquainted with Father Rother and had visited with him.
I had visited Santiago Atitlan for a few days in 1983 after Father Rother was killed.
I stayed in the Rectory with Stan’s parents and served as translator for Stan’s parents. My Spanish was of rusty high school vintage but I managed to do more good than harm as I translated for people who came to greet the parents of “Padre Apla’s” (Father Rother).
The truth is the people did not speak much Spanish either so we mostly used sign languages and embraces to communicate.
I really thought long and hard about saying yes.
I decided to throw my hat in the ring.
As it turned out there was already someone from outside Oklahoma who was chosen to go to minister in Santiago Atitlan.
I was very upset but figured at being invited and offering to serve and finding the Archbishop had hired an “outside gun” to come to take Father Rother’s place.
I did remember however that I still owed the Archbishop obedience.
As it turned out Father Bruce Natsuhara came to serve in Oklahoma and I was suddenly able to go to work in Santiago Atitlan.
I really thought a lot of my priest friends who spoke Spanish fluently, who were younger or older or wiser or were good friends with Stan had volunteered to go to work in Santiago Atitlan.
By the time I left for Guatemala I had heard many reasons for refusing to come to the feast:
“My parents are too old.”
“It is not my thing.”
“Don’t you know they killed the last priest there.”
“I am very comfortable where I am.”
I was really surprised that people were not fighting for the job.
In short, most of us were like the people who “refused to come” to come to the feast.
I share this is by way of saying, the opportunities of the Kingdom are not discovered by making excuses or having other priorities or waiting for someone else to accept the invitation and certainly not realized by “refusing to come”.
You don’t eat the “rich food”, or drink the “choice wines” or share the joy by letting someone else go in your place.
In the parable the second group of messengers sent are not only told the invited guests will not come they are mistreated and killed.
The king executes those who refused to come and burned their city.
The king sends messengers a third time to the “roads” and “main streets” and they “filled the hall with guests….good and bad alike”.
But there is a catch.
One guest decided to come to the feast but he did not really want to participate.
He was indifferent, lazy, or perhaps having a bad day. For whatever reason he decided to “show up” but not “suit up”.
He assumed “showing up” was enough.
He perhaps knew he was not worthy to be invited but thought he could get by with half measures, a non caring attitude or that the expectations to “suit up” applied to others but not to him.
The king is nobody’s fool and “throws the bum out” of the assembly.
Jesus is telling the leaders, the religiously strict observers, chief priests, the elders, those who judge others, impose burdens and expectations on others that, they are invited and called.
They are not chosen because they refuse to come or they come half heartedly.
This is a hard parable.
It is especially hard for those of us who lead, who teach more by example than by our words.
I know I am invited but often I feel like refusing or giving what is convenient and not what is needed.
Yesterday afternoon I was invited to visit a sick young person in the Hospital. This was not a convenient invitation to respond to. I could have waited. The person could have waited. I chose to visit, to serve, to be “inconvenienced” in response to this call to serve the needs of the Kingdom and not my own needs.
Jesus invites us to give our whole heart, soul, self, mind and body.
Jesus chooses us when we are open to listen, respond and participate in the great feast that is a central part of entering the kingdom of God.