Are We Saying ‘No’ to Freedom?

You may remember that in the gospel of 2 weeks ago, a young man agrees to help his father in the fields, but he never shows up.  Bad choice!

Last week, tenants determine to kill the son of their boss. They expect they will become the heirs to the land if the true heir is out of the way.  Bad choice!

In today’s parable, a king throws a great feast for his son, and invites all the right people to enjoy the banquet. Who wouldn’t come to a lavish event like this? In fact, many people choose to skip this chance-of-a-lifetime dinner in favor of some lame alternatives.  Bad choice!

The problem with condemning these parable characters wholesale is that they represent us.  We are the ones at risk of refusing the one invitation we can’t afford to decline.

Jesus is saying to all of us: you are totally wrong to say no to what God offers humanity.  God offers light to those in darkness, healing for those who are suffering, joy for those who mourn, peace for the troubled, forgiveness for all who sin.  Do we dare throw away such an invitation?

The correct response to this exceptional invitation is not simply to come to church.  Jesus does not mean that attending church regularly resolves all our problems.  Properly understood, church is the sign and sacrament of a greater reality, and it is to this reality that Jesus invites us.

It’s what the church represents that we are all being invited to, and even those of us who go into church buildings all the time haven’t necessarily accepted this invitation.  Have we genuinely come to the feast, or are we just dragging our bodies to church all these years?  Do we come in the proper inner, spiritual attire, the interior attributes of love and gratitude, hope and generosity.  Or are our hearts so full of self-righteousness, self-pity, envy, unforgiveness, or cynicism that we leave this feast as we came . . . aching with hunger?

Jesus tells three stories making the same point because it is a crucial one. And if the church chooses to recount these three stories in a row each year we read Matthew’s gospel, it’s because the message is critical for us. God invites us to new life in Baptism: Let’s be new people!

The table is set with food for the journey: come to the feast!  The Spirit lives in the church: may we be courageous in our witness!  Our sins are forgiven: let go of the past!  Anointing is offered: embrace the power of healing!

Our love is made holy in Christ: let’s support each other as we grow in love and wisdom and grace.

Prepare the Word + Lloyd Baugh, S.J.