Special Invitation

Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Almost everyone had been a host or a guest at a party. It could be a birthday, wedding, graduation, anniversary, or retirement party. One common factor is that an invitation precedes every party. Truthfully, the greatest challenge for any party is taking care of the invited guests.

So, we can say that the success of any party is measured by the quality of the attendance by the invited guests apart from the menu and entertainment. In other words, it was a poor party if you had the best food, drink, and entertainment but no guests.

In the First Reading (Isaiah 25:6-10a), the oracle of the prophet Isaiah tells us about a feast the Lord of hosts is preparing for all peoples consisting of rich food and choice wines. The prophet further tells us the content of the mountain feast.

One would expect the mountain-top party to be only food and drink. But we learn from the prophet that God prepared some takeaways for the guests beyond the rich food and choice wines: the eternal destruction of evil veils, webs, and death—the wiping of tears from every face and the removal of the reproach of the people. Finally, the prophecy promises a crowning point: the people’s salvation.

In the Gospel Reading (Matt. 22:1-14), our Lord Jesus Christ gives yet another Kingdom parable, but this time, he moves from the reoccurring vineyard analogy to a wedding party or feast.

In the parable, a king gave a wedding feast for his son. He could have given out the invitations earlier because the parable tells us that he dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast.

Unfortunately, all the guests refused to show up. Even a second team of servants with the reminder to come to the feast explaining the menu did not make them change their minds as some ignored the servants, and others went away for other things. Some others were so disenchanted about the invitation that they brutally maltreated the servants and killed them.

The king was so enraged that he sent a fighting troop to destroy those invited guests who murdered his servants and burned their city. However, he was still determined to have the feast, so he sent another set of servants to go out into the main roads and invite whomever they could find.

Responding according to the king’s instructions, the servants brought anyone they could find, good and bad alike, and soon the hall was filled with guests. The parable could have ended there, but something happened. A man was there who was not dressed in a wedding garment. Identifying him, the king asked that he be thrown out of the party when he could not explain why he was not dressed for the feast. Jesus ended the parable with an important statement: “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Accurate Response to God’s Special Invitation

An average invitation would contain the French initialism: RSVP, “Répondez s’il vous plait” which in turn means “Respond if you please” or “Please respond,”. In our technology-driven society, sending out invitations and receiving RSVPs are much easier with the help of some applications.

Responding to invitations is important for a variety of reasons. First, it helps the host know the number of guests to expect, and that awareness assists in gauging the number of tables and chairs to provide, including the quantity of food and drink to dispense.

Now, responding to God has nothing to do with helping him know what to provide for us because He has the facility that could take everyone; number is not an issue. What is important is our ability to respond accurately. Question: How do we respond accurately to God?

Make God Your Priority: The parable tells us that the invited guests could not show up majorly because they had various things that preoccupied them; in other words, the wedding feast was not a priority to them.

In life, whatever you give your attention becomes your priority. Jesus would tell us: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matt. 6:21). To respond to God, we need to make Him our highest treasure, which means our priority.

Question: “What is that one thing that drives your life and without which your life would be incomplete? If the one thing is not God, you must re-examine your life. When God is your priority, all other things become minorities.  

Be Intentional: To be intentional means to be present and purposefully aligned with the will of God. God is intentional with us in everything and expects us to be intentional with His invitation.

We become intentional with God by incarnating an unbreakable link with Him. Our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated this while describing the relationship between the vine and the branches when he said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).

Be Prepared: Preparation is the best gift anyone can give to oneself. It covers availability and readiness. God is the author of preparation from the beginning. There is hardly any divine activity with humans without a preceding act of preparation.

To respond to God, we need every inch of preparation. This was the challenge of the man who came to the wedding not wearing the right garment. It was one thing for the man to be invited and another to come prepared.  The Book of Sirach (2:1) says: “My child if you endeavor to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.”

Moving Forward: Obtaining the Grace to Respond to God’s Invitation

We must accept that it takes grace to fulfill the threefold demands for responding to God. Grace is simply God’s sufficiency in our deficiency. Therefore, we must obtain grace to prioritize God and be intentional and prepared.

St. Paul seemed to have understood the difficulty in responding to the divine invitation when he disclosed in the Second Reading (Eph. 4:12-14, 19-20) that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. We should adopt this as a personal prayer, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Like St. Paul’s, our conviction is that God, who has invited us to the feast, will supply all we need according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. The feast starts here with the Eucharistic Banquet, where we partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the richest food and drink that nourishes our souls.

There should be no excuses; let us respond to the Lord’s special invitation.

God bless You.

Fr. Bonnie.   

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