November 6, 2012
Dear brothers and sisters,
The gospel reading today is from Luke 14:15-24.
One of his fellows guests on hearing this said to him, “Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God.” He replied to him, “A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready.’ But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’ The servant went and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out and still there is room.’ The master then ordered the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled. For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.'”
The fellow guest had just heard the parable teaching that it is best for an invited guest to to humble himself by taking the lowest place at table. And to the host that he should invite the poor who cannot repay his generosity. This is similar to the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew.
Luke, of course, was a proponent of including gentiles in the Christian Jewish community. He repeatedly makes the point that the Jews, God’s chosen people, have failed to respond to the invitation of His son whereupon He has opened the kingdom of God to all people. The image the Jews held in believing that when God broke into human history again was of a messianic banquet. This imaged banquet did not include sinners and gentiles. What Jesus taught about the kingdom of God and His banquet just didn’t conform to what they believed. They failed to realize that Jesus was God’s invitation; they failed to see the banquet that He had spread before them.
Even today God spreads a banquet before me. And yet I make my excuses. For this year of faith I determined that I was going to spend time in contemplative prayer at least once each week. I am having a hard time fulfilling that promise to myself. I always have a ready excuse. I don’t have time or I ran out of time because I have to do something or other. I always have something to do. That’s why I think God prompted me to spend time with Him in contemplative prayer. That means I can’t do anything. I can’t voice my prayers, asking for something or other. I can’t read scripture. I can’t engage in rote prayer. I have to sit and be still, trying to free my mind of all thoughts so that maybe I can give God a chance to get a word in edgewise in my busy life. I’m just like the invited guests that Jesus used in his parable. Business comes first, or work of some sort comes first, or my home and family come first. I have been rejecting God’s invitation this last two weeks. Jesus is warning me that if I continue to refuse God’s invitation, I may be out of luck. I may be not be able to sit down at His banquet.
Most of us have excuses. What’s yours? It’s pretty lame, isnt’ it? We’re not kidding anyone, least of all God. So, I’m recommitting myself. Today will be the day I spend some time in contemplative prayer. It can’t wait for tomorrow.