October 10, 2008
Maybe next time ...
28th Sunday in the Ordinary Time
Matthew 22:1-14 “My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding
Today, we celebrate the "Fiesta Pilar", in honor of the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Pilar Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragosa. We expect invitations for lunch and dinner today. Yet some of us will turn down these invitations for many reasons; and we have prepared conventional excuses such as: “I’m sorry, I need to finish some work in our office. Maybe next time…” or “I’m sorry I need to attend to some pressing business matters. Maybe next time.” But the funny thing is...we are always curious of what food they served and who came to the party. Then we regret for not coming and console ourselves with the words, “Maybe next time.” But it is already a lost opportunity. Sayang.
Our gospel today is like that. The parable is about a king who invited his guest for the wedding of his son but all of them ignored the invitation. The invited guests in the story were not interested to attend the wedding. They preferred to work in their farms and businesses rather than going to the wedding and enjoy the prepared sumptuous banquet. They were so engrossed with their personal and worldly concern that they become deaf to God’s invitation to celebrate life with him. The invited guests are not bad or immoral people. Like us, they are just too busy with so many things in life that they forgot the Giver of all gifts – God.
We are too busy with so many things of this world that we forget our own spiritual life and God’s invitation to a life in the spirit. William Barclay even said, “The tragedy of life is that it is so often the second bests which shut out the bests, that it is things which are good in themselves which shut out the things that are supreme. A man can be so busy making a living that he fails to make a life; he can be so busy with the administration and organization of life that he forgets life itself.”
There is nothing wrong giving time and effort to our material and worldly concern like earning more money. We need money to pay our electric, telephone, and other bills. There is nothing wrong working hard to get what we want in life like acquiring a beautiful house, good food, vacation, good education for our children, and other concern. They are also God’s blessings. But sometimes, we tend to forget the giver of all these gifts. We forget that God’s invitation to be with Him is far more important than any other things in this world. To be attached to people or to anything is normal and accepted, but it becomes unhealthy when we lost our desire to seek God and His kingdom. They become our inordinate attachments.
The image of the king punishing those who ignored the wedding invitation should not blind us to see the real message - not so much of the punishment but the guests’ lost opportunity to experience the joy of the banquet God prepared for them. The first reading and the gospel illustrate vividly what the guests missed in the feast: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready.” (Matthew 22: 4)… “The Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” (Isaiah 25:6).
Then the story continues. The king sent out his servants, not to the houses of wealthy and respectable people, but to the ordinary, neglected, and outcast people. And they happily came to attend the wedding. But when the king entered the hall to greet them, he immediately noticed one who did not dress appropriately to the occasion. The king asked, “My friend how is it that you came here without a wedding garment?” But the man was reduced to silence. He could not use his work and business concerns as valid reasons. And the king cast him into darkness.
What made the king furious was the man’s laziness to wear the proper garment. It was a direct insult to the king and his kingdom. We may think that the king is not kind enough to forgive the poor guy since he cannot afford to a wedding garment. But in the biblical time, wedding garments were available in the anterooms of the reception halls, much in the same way that dinner suits are available in some restaurants in the United States for those who inadvertently come without coat and tie. Therefore, the poor man has no excuse for not dressing up properly. I guess what made the king burst into anger was the poor man’s laziness to dress up! Dressing up properly is one way of giving respect to the king and to the wedding feast.
In our present context, the wedding feast represents the life of holiness and the life in the Spirit God is offering. This life in the Spirit is being offered to everybody without any exception. It is a grace offered to all as a free gift from God. But this grace is not just a free gift to be taken for granted. It is also a responsibility. If God called us to a new life with Him, we must be clothed with holiness and a new way of living according to the precepts of God. The door of the kingdom of God is open to everybody, but it is not open for the sinners to come and remain sinners, but to remove the cloth of sinfulness and wear the cloth of holiness which is the appropriate garment for the feast.
Everyday, God is inviting us to commune with Him in prayer, in community prayer meetings, family meals and in the Eucharist. Yet we find ourselves saying “NO” for many reasons. We failed to see that each of our “Not at the moment, I am busy. Maybe next time” is a lost opportunity to enjoy God’s presence and love. It is not His lost but ours.
I am amused to people who immediately raises his or her hand to an invitation to eat or to go somewhere. We jokingly called them “kaladkarin,” but I am sure they are enjoying life. I wish to be a “kaladkarin” when God is the one inviting.
When God invites us, we should eagerly respond positively. “Maybe next time” is not an option. For we may run out of time and find ourselves uninvited anymore. Sayang.
Fr.Willy M. Samson,S.J.
October 12, 2008