Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 15, 2017)
The time of this parable was the week of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and before his arrest. Hearing the time of the parable helps us to understand the forcefulness of it. Jesus is so frustrated with those to whom his father sent him!
the a-list guests refuse the invitation
the invitees kill those bearing the invitation
the king then destroys the murderers and burns their city
the king next invites everyone to the wedding banquet
one of the recent invitees is ejected for not being properly dressed.
Matthew’s gospel was written after the romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, so that is probably the reason for the segment about the destructive and vindictive king. Jesus describes the kingdom of God as a banquet, an image difficult to perceive for Jewish leadership who saw the protection of tradition as their job. We understand the kingdom of God as banquet or, more abstractly, as a sphere of existence or a state of consciousness with required, consequent action.
We who accept the invitation are surprised upon entering the banquet. We discover as we mature that the unnamed partner of Jesus is you and I – if we choose to wear the proper garment – enthusiasm to be with Jesus.
As we mature from infancy to childhood to adulthood, we do so by taking responsibility, a word better understood if we take the time to say it slowly and reflect upon it: “response-ability.” Using our ability to respond.
As infants and for a while after, we have almost no responsibility at all to the worldly attentions given us. At best, we offer a smile of contentment – before the next outcry for the satisfaction of a need.
As young children we are taught to say “thank you” when people do good things for us. We are taught to share what we have been given. With the passing of the years towards adulthood we mature in our response-ability or we may think we are independent of God, and, as the poet Francis Thompson wrote, we avoid him - in one way or another. Thompson describes this:
“I fled him down the nights and down the days. I fled him down the arches of the years. I fled him in the labyrinthine ways of my own mind, and in the midst of tears I hid from him, and under ruining laughter.”
I wonder if anyone of us is totally free of avoidance of God, of avoiding openness to our lord who renews his invitation each day. The invitation – always initiated by our God – is ongoing as we mature, as we grow in the spiritual life.
One guest in today’s Gospel was evicted because his response was inappropriate. More was expected of him than simply showing up at the banquet. Jesus is telling us here that god expects an open response from us. Not any response will do. The response must be ongoing and fitting for our stage in life.
When we look at life in terms of response, we also get a good understanding of what it means to sin. Sin is failing to make the right response. It is failing to accept our “response-ability.” It is both a personal failure and an offense against the one who invites us to share the table with him.
In the light of today’s Gospel, let us once more accept “response-ability” for life at the banquet.