Phil 4:12-14, 19-20
Gospel: Mt 22:1-14
This week’s readings move along smoothly, up to a point. Isaiah looks forward to God giving a wonderful feast for everyone. The psalmist sings of God as his good shepherd. St. Paul rejoices in being able to do everything in God who strengthens him. You couldn’t find a more comforting set of Bible texts.
Then we get to the Gospel.
Jesus tells a parable about a king who invites people to his son’s wedding reception. Some of them refuse to come. Astonishing!
Other invitees rough up the servants who deliver the invitation -- and kill them. Incredible!
The king sends soldiers to execute the murderers and destroy their town. Not surprising, but shocking, all the same.
Finally, the king fills his banquet hall with homeless people. Unimaginable!
And that, Jesus says, is what the kingdom of heaven is like.
Yes, the kingdom of God can be compared to a great feast, as Isaiah pictures it. And, Jesus indicates, the invitations are being sent out, and now is the time to respond.
In his jolting little story, “some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.” Bad move! Everything depended on accepting the invitation, but they missed their chance.
The heart of Jesus’ preaching was that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15). God is beginning to intervene in people’s lives to set things right. Jesus is both the announcer and the agent of God’s action. It is in Jesus that God is getting near to people in a new way, getting into people’s lives for their good.
Jesus tried to get people to see that when the wave of God’s action gets to where you’re at, nothing is more urgent than catching it.
Sending his disciples out to preach the arrival of God’s kingdom, he forbade them to delay even to say hello to people they met on the road -- a hugely rude thing to do in a courtesy-rich culture (Lk 10:4). More astounding, he told a potential disciple who wanted to put off following him until after his father’s funeral, “Let the dead bury their dead” (Lk 9:59-60).
The point of all this is not that Jesus is not gentle and patient, as he showed in countless ways. The point is, when God begins to make himself present to us, when we hear him saying something to us, when we sense an invitation or call from him, this becomes the most hopeful and most pressing thing happening in our life.