One of the dinner guests said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.”’
Yesterday, I reflected upon Christ’s call to a life of love and generosity. Today, this is modelled in a parable told by Jesus himself. In this parable the one who gave a great dinner can be seen as representing God himself as he invites us to accept his hospitality. Jesus, the Son of God, has come to earth to invite the whole of humanity into a new relationship with his heavenly Father. This new relationship is undeserved and unearned, but it is offered to us all, just as those who were invited to the great dinner had done nothing to earn such an invitation.
As the parable unfolds Jesus confronts us with the harsh reality of our human nature. Just as those invited to the great dinner found excuses not to attend, so we find excuses not to take seriously what God is offering us. We plead business and social pressure; we claim conflict of interests; we simply cannot be bothered! All of these inadequate excuses, along with the many others we offer, serve only to distance us from the God who has invited us to the banquet of eternal life that is served in his heavenly kingdom.
In Jesus’ parable the great dinner is not wasted. Instead of being a banquet for the original invitees, it turned into a banquet for those who would have been considered untouchable outcasts: the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. Jesus is showing us that the generosity of God’s love is for everyone. He is also showing us that we should behave in the same way.
Too often, we consider ourselves and our social ‘set’ to be a cut above the ‘others’. We erect barriers that exclude those upon whom we look down. We set up false rules of behaviour which demarcate between those we have decided to be ‘inside’ and those whom we see as being ‘outside’ the borders of acceptability. Today, we are being reminded that all people, no matter who or what they may be, are being offered the generosity and love of God’s hospitality. Who are we to offer anything less?
Let us pray that we might set aside our worldly pride and be ready to accept the undeserved love and welcome offered to us through Jesus Christ. Let us pray that we might never see ourselves as being superior to others. Let us pray that, through our words and actions, others may come to know God’s love in their lives, no matter who or what they may be.