28th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2020-A
My brothers and sisters in the Lord!
The German Composer Carl Maria von Weber wrote his “Invitation to the Dance” originally for the piano. The piece begins majestically, reflecting with formality of the request being made between the partners. Once the acceptance is assured, the music changes completely, sweeping the couple away in a crescendo of melody and movement. There can be successful invitations, which would be a delight to all concerned. However, the invitations may also be filled with complications. For example, you might think of weddings: who is to be invited as well as who will be excluded. Modern weddings in our area can be expensive and very demanding of all involved in making it perfect. We live in world where wedding registries of desired gifts are selected by the couple and can be sent out on behalf of the bride and groom. There are professional party organizers, who take away the burden of decisions and allow the family to enjoy the event.
We see in the Gospels that Jesus accepts invitations whenever offered and today we see that he accused by the scribes and Pharisees of dining with sinners, as in the case with Zacchaeus, he engineers an invitation even before it has been offered. We might even say that Jesus is not always the easiest of guests. When he eats with the Pharisees, he never misses an opportunity to reprehend them for their behavior, which might seem rather rude in our world for dinner parties.
It is in his parables that Jesus faces up to the big problem in certain invitations. Normally we would be only too eager to accept an invitation to an important event, but Jesus gives examples of kings or lords holding prestigious weddings and those invited refusing to come. Not only do they refuse to come but can go as far as to mistreat and kill messengers sent to tell them of the celebration.
Looking at today’s story it runs two parables together, one with the conclusion that all are to be invited now that the original guests have refused, and the second to do with how we are expected to respond to an invitation with good faith. What Jesus is really showing us is how God constantly invites us to come and celebrate and how we resolutely refuse.
God’s invitation to us is to celebrate with God in the Eucharist. It is in this celebration that we make present once again the mysterious act of salvation brought about by Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. The format in which we celebrate is a mixture of the synagogue service, welcoming God’s word among us, and the Last Supper at which Jesus anticipated through the blessing and gift of the bread and wine, the sacrifice he was about to undergo.
We ask why are so many reluctant to accept the invitation. The reasons given may be similar to the parables. We have other more pressing, more important things to do. Right now the big fear is the pandemic and afraid to come to mass, but not being afraid to go food shopping or being without a mask. The question is often asked in Shop Rite or Costco when will the church be opening? And the reply it’s been open. Then another response, I’m still not comfortable coming to church, do you think it’s safe? Well yes, safer than a super market, a protest march, train, airport or bus. Those are the excuses, but in general and even before the pandemic, many make the choice. There is a failure in us to appreciate the full nature of the celebration, and we sometimes blame the celebrant or the form of the liturgy is blamed for our drifting away. The excuses can be the liturgy is too traditional, too modern, too boring, or too dull, and in our modern need for entertainment it can be all these things. Any attempt to express what is happening will fall short, though that does not take away the responsibility to try to catch something of the essence of God being among us as we gather in God’s name. The problem is that if we do cut ourselves off in this way we run the risk of becoming isolated and losing the sense of meaning in our lives. God does not abandon us, but when we abandon God we certainly do not make God’s attempt to love us any easier.
Once again, we must always remember that we are invited to share in our Mass together. It is God who invites. Do we respond to that invitation, joyfully or reluctantly? Do we come out of a sense of duty or is it because deep down we are fully aware of what that invitation signifies? We are free to make that decision – God does not force us.
This week-end has been special since we the celebrated yesterday of the first group of the First Holy Communion Class of 2020 having received the Eucharist for the first time. They have been anxiously awaiting this great day in their lives. Let us pray for them as they receive Jesus for the first time. The next two Saturdays we continue the celebration of the remaining children as they prepare to celebrate this great day in their lives. We congratulate and are proud of them and we give thanks to God for the gift they are to us in our parish community.