If you are someone who organises parties or banquets regularly, you know how important it is to be informed who is coming and who isn’t. I have found it quite frustrating when the invited guests do not RSVP by the stipulated date. The chances are that you would probably consider those who did not respond as not coming. However, if they do turn up on the actual day without notifying, it could cause some inconvenience especially if the seating had been prearranged and perhaps even some annoyance. What would be even worse is that someone decides to bring another friend along. Given this difficult scenario, we probably will try not to send the person away and find ways to accommodate.
The gospel scene today has some similar elements. The king is giving a wedding banquet for his son and lots of people had been invited to this banquet. The king must have thought… since it is the king’s invitation, everyone will drop whatever they had planned to do and attend this banquet. The difference here is that none of the invited guests turned up and it is not because they had replied earlier as unable to attend. The stark difference here is that the gospel parable seems to indicate that the invited would not come and not that they could not come. This is an important point to keep in mind.
This parable was directly addressed to the Pharisees who refused to receive Jesus as the Promised Messiah and rejected the gift of salvation that was being offered. Those Pharisees who heard this parable knew exactly that it was intended for them and were furious. That is why at the end of the parable, in the very next verse, Matthew records that “the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him [Jesus] in his words.” The constant tension between Jesus and the Pharisees, especially with the priests and the scribes, was the fact that they thought they know everything there is to know about God and his ways. This then led to the inability in them to fathom the fact that God could be incarnated in human form and enter human history through Jesus. What had happened is that they had preconceived notions about God and His ways and therefore confined God and His action only to a particular way – their way. By doing this, they immediately excluded Jesus to could be the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy.
Many of us have grown up with a certain understanding of God and sometimes we may be led to think that it is the only way God should be – the way I think He should be. What happens is that when we meet people who think differently of God and who may have different experiences of God from our own, we end up excluding them. By doing this, we do the same as the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. We put God into a mould or model that we have made for ourselves and anything that does not fit this mould is looked upon with suspicion. We quickly exclude people with different forms of spirituality, especially in the way they communicate with God.
The beauty of God is that He cannot be confined to acting in only one particular way because if we do so, then God ceases to be God. God is both omnipotent and transcendent and therefore we can never confine Him. That was the mistake made by the priests and scribes in Jesus’ time. They would not see God beyond their human thinking just like the invited guests who would not come to the wedding banquet. If we choose to see God only in the way I think is most appropriate, then we might miss the grandeur and splendour of our God because of our insular thinking.
Let us not confine God at the expense of excluding others because when we do this we can quite easily become pharisaical in our thinking and actions, the very attitude that Jesus opposed during His ministry. The invitation to the heavenly banquet is open to all and we, as Church, we radiate the inclusiveness of God in His plan of salvation, which includes peoples who have different beliefs or choose to live differently. There is love, mercy and compassion for all who seek God with a sincere heart.
– 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)