God's Invitation to Peace
We are pretty busy most of the time. Too often, we have “things to do and people to see.” Sometimes, this busyness is a good thing – it keeps us out of trouble and helps us be productive. However, chronic busyness is a problem. Why? It fills our lives and creates a constant state of urgency – this has to get done, and it has to get done now. Moreover, it has to get done by me.
Like I said, being busy is alright from time to time. We run up against deadlines and have obligations that require our attention. But Jesus presents us with a challenge today that should shake us out of our state of constant urgency and force us to see what is really important. Someone once said that “not everything that is urgent is important.” The challenge that Jesus gives us today is the wisdom to know the difference.
The first guests who were invited to the important feast that Jesus talks about were, no doubt, busy people. They had lives, duties and responsibilities. The invitation to the feast came in the midst of their busy lives. But, this was no ordinary invitation; it was an invitation from the king. When the king invites, you go. However, pressed with the wild urgency of their own lives, the invitations went unanswered – and even resented.
That wild urgency stands in stark contrast with the peace and rest that most people so desperately want. Today, as our retirement funds and plans are threatened, the possibility for peaceful rest seems less likely. Oddly, this scary possibility only spurs us to become more busy! However, if the hope for personal peace and security seems long-off, then the possibility for true peace – and peace on earth – is only a distant dream. Saint John XXIII, before he convened Vatican II, wrote an encyclical entitled Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”). In it he notes:
"Every believer in this world of ours must be a spark of light, a center of love, a life-giving leaven amidst his fellow men. And he will be this all the more perfectly, the more closely he lives in communion with God in the intimacy of his own soul. The world will never be the house of peace, till peace has found a home in the heart of each and every man, till every man preserves in himself the order ordained by God to be preserved."
Those are certainly prophetic words for us these days when we look to the Holy Land itself and see war and turmoil. Peace cannot be imposed; it must be the overflowing of an order that comes from the heart. This interior order is not something that we ourselves can invent. Certainly, it is not something that our busyness will create. Rather, it is the result of the invitation – the same invitation that Jesus talks about today. His image of the king’s feast is reminiscent of Isaiah’s depiction of the heavenly banquet to which all are invited. This is not an invitation that we can turn down simply because we are “busy.” This is a time to put aside those “urgent” things for what is truly important.
What God is inviting us to, as St. John XXIII pointed out, is communion – communion with God, and communion with others. The feast is a place where our agendas cease to be important and God’s will becomes the driving force. We put on the grace that God offers and share fully in the peaceful security of knowing that we belong at that feast, because God has invited us there. This is the significance of the guest who did not put on the wedding garment (which, by the way, would have been given to him by the Host). He denies that gift and decides to attend the feast on his own terms. This is not what God is looking for either. God provides everything, and He wants us to accept all that He has to give!
Not only that, God has invited a vast amount of people there. As Jesus notes, “Many are called.” Whether we are “chosen” or not depends on our acceptance of that invitation on God’s terms, not our own.
When we are able to come to the feast – a feast prefigured in this Eucharist – we can set aside those “urgent” things of our busy lives and embrace what is truly important – communion with God and each other.