’Come, everything is now ready.’ But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.
In today’s gospel, a man prepared a great banquet and sent his servants out to gather the attendees. With a multitude of practical excuses, they declined. Enraged by the lackluster response, the master of the house again sends his servant to call anyone who will come, namely those who needed it the most (“the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame”).
When I have prayed with this passage in the past, I always feel the indignation of the master of the house, because I too like to host events. I plan, invite, and wait…hoping people will respond, but I lack the confidence of the man in the parable. He has already prepared the banquet, then he invites. These days, a party host sends a “save the date”, then an invite, then prepares the list, purchases and prepares the food knowing the number of guests, with very little risk of wasting. The host of a banquet in the days of this parable would have been risking the bounty of his harvest, his fattened calf, and his family’s store, all before knowing if anyone would come and receive. Like the host in this parable, Our Master, God our Father, sacrificed it all–His only son—a prepared banquet of salvation, trusting in the reciprocity of His people. Will we accept the invitation? Or should He consider us excused, like the first round of guests in this gospel?
I have also played the role of the declining guest. I have been in a season where I was swallowed up by life’s circumstances which gave way to my spiritual numbness. It is in these times that I permitted myself to paint a shiny gloss over my inner struggles, considering myself “excused” with comfortable earthly things when I didn’t want to deal with the spiritual disorder inside of me. Instead, an oil change for my car or getting my hair done was temporarily easier than attending a prayer group where I could not hide from myself, others, or my Master.
Today, humbly, I stand in the shoes of the servant. The servant who is working for the Master of the House. I want to please my Master. I want souls to know the foods that adorn His banquet are those that satisfy the hungry heart. In obedience, I continue to call others to my Master, hoping they will come receive His love. When those I call for my master do not answer, I will continue to search for those who earnestly desire His bountiful sacrifice. When they come to the feast, I will give thanks and admire those guests who relish the food with tears streaming down their faces, licking their fingers, picking up every last crumb, as they cry “Thank you, my Master…thank You.”