All three readings in the liturgy this week speak of the delight that God has prepared for those who accept his invitation.
Isaiah tells us that, “the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines.” Paul assures the Philippians that, “God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches, in Christ Jesus.” Finally, Matthew gives us an extended story of a king who prepares a sumptuous feast and invites everyone, even those from the streets and roads, to enjoy the party he has prepared.
The underlying theme of all three readings can be stated that God wants to share his abundance with all people. All we really need to do is accept the invitation. In the Gospel reading, people do reject that invitation. Some simply ignore the summons; they had better things to do. Others act violently towards the messengers who announce the invitation. Those who accept the invitation come to the feast even though they were not on the original list of guests. Essentially the only ones who lose are those who either fail to respond or openly reject what is offered.
It is helpful to reflect on the generosity of the one who offers the feast. The party is far more than anyone could have expected or even thought possible. In Scripture, the image for this generosity is often the gift of a special meal of fine foods and good drink. In our own special celebrations such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and weddings, our first thought is to have a splendid meal for our families and friends. This meal is a sign of love, care and generosity. God wants to treat us in the same way. He is the one who loves us, cares for us and is generous to us.
In the Gospel reading especially, it is obvious that the ones who finally enjoy the meal are the outcasts living in that king’s realm. If we use more contemporary images, then the guests of the meal are migrants, refugees, homeless people, the disabled and those who have no place in “proper society.” The parable is a graphic representation of one of Jesus’s favorite themes: “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”
Currently, we are experiencing a time of great stress and turmoil. At this time, it is necessary to reflect on the themes of God’s generosity towards all people. The offer of salvation is universal. All we need to do is accept God’s invitation. The invitation is freely given; it only requires our “yes” to reap the reward of eternal life. Once again, Isaiah says, “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! … let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
Fr. Treloar, an assistant director at Jesuit Retreat House, Oshkosh, has served as a professor, lecturer, author and academic administrator.