Ready for the Feast?

Readings for October 15, 2017

Isaiah 25:6-10
Psalm 23
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
Matthew 22:1-14

www.usccb.org/bible/readings/

My son-in-law carries a spoon in his winter jacket. He laughs and says, “You never know; it’s best to be ready.” He has prepared in advance for an unexpected invitation to a feast. It seems obvious to prepare for that which is expected, particularly if what is expected is anything like the lavish feast Isaiah describes. It is less obvious to prepare for the unexpected invitation, for being invited only after those originally chosen refused their invitation. Not being prepared, however, may rescind my invitation. In Jesus’ parable, the King angrily confronts a guest who was not wearing the appropriate garments for the wedding feast. The guest’s treatment may appear harsh. After all, the one invited was, at best, a B-lister, among the “good and the bad” who were invited off the streets after the Chosen People refused. Yet, to accept the invitation I must accept that I need to be ready. While some may scoff at being a B-lister and refuse to prepare, others, like my son-in-law, are ready and waiting, accepting “a feast of rich food and choice wines” regardless of when or how the invitation comes.

God’s Chosen People, the Jews, are the A-listers in the story. As can happen still today in any of a number areas of our lives, those believing themselves to be A-listers can became complacent, overcome with a sense of entitlement. I, as B-lister, can fall to the same complacency. In entitlement, I can easily overlook an invitation, believing another will come along shortly. Complacency reflects my arrogance and elevates my sense of self. Doing so rejects God’s promise of salvation through Christ. While God does not, indeed cannot, stop loving and inviting, when I refuse, God invites another in my place. The banquet hall will be filled with those that accept the invitation, whether or not I am among them.

Saint Paul offers a perspective countering my sense of entitlement, writing, “In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.” On both sides, Paul exhorts me to “do all things in him who strengthens me.” Yet reminders to accept both abundance and need, joyfully leaning on God, can ring a bit like a pious directive to “Get over it!” I do not think I am called to get over it as much as I am called to be ready to embrace “it,” all of life’s challenges as well as the joy. In my own life, I find answers when I return to the Greatest Commandment – love God with my whole mind, soul, strength and heart. Sometimes, though, I can only muster up one of those “whole” things I need to love God. As a starting point, I can focus on loving God with my mind by studying a bible verse, its etymology, its historical context, and its significance. Other times, I have to lean on my strength, particularly when life is hard. But if I consider that I cannot live the command with only my “whole strength,” or study my way to love with my “whole mind,” I can draw the line from my head to my heart, my strength to my soul. I understand better how all I do is the preparation that God wants from me.

Paul further expresses gratitude for those that “share in my distress.” I am not alone in this world. God’s command to love others is a means to fight my elevated sense of self. I am blessed to have many in my life to help me be ready, be clothed in Christ. My wife is a fierce prayer warrior, preparing a path for me I do not even anticipate. My children challenge how I look at things so to prepare me for the wide variety of ways life in Christ unfolds. My editor prepares my ramblings with corrections and suggestions allowing for a more cohesive reflection, ready to be shared with others. Those at my church who decorate, clean the pews, prepare the altar, or light the candles create an environment that allows me to focus on my prayer. The communal preparation allows me to accept the invitation to share in the feast, putting the spoon in my pocket for the unexpected invitation to “live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

 

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