The Gospel St. Luke 14.16
A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at suppertime to say to them that were bidden: Come, for all things are now ready.
This is the time of year when we receive all sorts of invitations. Graduations, weddings, etc.; they all seem to take place between June and October. We will get any number of these invitations and we realize that we can’t possibly go to all of them. So we debate about which events we will attend, and which ones we’ll skip. And for those we decide to skip, maybe we’ll just send a card or a gift, so as to satisfy our social responsibility. In any event, we get are invited to an event that is a momentous occasion in someone’s life, and we will respond by saying, “sorry, can’t make it”.
Oh, sure, we’ll have “legitimate” reasons; a “conflict” in schedules; “already been to four or five or six of these things”; “don’t know them that well”; “don’t really “like” them all that much”. We’ll come up with almost any excuse not to go; and so, a great day in someone’s life takes place without you being there.
Think about it this way; what did you miss? Think about your wedding, your graduation, the baptism of your child. How did you feel on those days? Weren’t those wonderful days? Weren’t those joyous days? Weren’t those days where your emotions ran so high, your joy so wide-ranging, that you wanted to share it, not only with the people who are special to you, but with everyone?
Yet, I’ll be willing to bet that you weren’t able to. For one reason or another, someone was missing; someone you’d hoped would be there; maybe even someone you prayed would be there. And so, while your joy may not have been diminished in any significant way, still there was some lingering disappointment, because the gathering was somehow incomplete. There was an empty seat at the banquet.
I know this feeling quite well. When my ordination to the priesthood was scheduled, I sent out invitations to all the clergy in the Diocese; and for various reasons, few of them came. Some of those who could not attend were quite special to me; and while I harbor no ill will towards them, I was still disappointed.
These are the choices we make; and the effect of our choice results in the disappointment of someone else. So it is with God. He invites us to His Banquet, and we beg off; with “valid” reasons, to be sure, but we beg off none the less. And so, we disappoint God.
Now I know that some of you are probably thinking, “OK, now Father is going to tell us how we should be in Church every Sunday”. Well, to that I’ve only one response, What do you expect me to say?
Every service offered here is an opportunity to worship God. Every service here is an invitation to the banquet. Not just the Sunday Mass, but every time Morning Prayer might be offered; every time the monthly Requiem is offered; every time a Rosary or Benediction might be offered. Every time there is an opportunity for us to be in God’s house, to offer Him praise and thanksgiving; those are invitations to His Holy banquet. And when we decline His invitation, we disappoint Him.
We’re only hurting ourselves. Do you think that God becomes less omnipotent because we fail to get to Church? Do you think that Jesus is just going to pat us on the head and say, “that’s alright, I know that you’re old, you’re tired, you were up late last night, you’ve got kids, you’re really busy”? Do you think that you’re justified for missing Mass because you were there last week?
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; we don’t know how good we’ve got it. More to the point, we are not grateful for how good we’ve got it. Think about it. There are people in this world who are suffering because their church has devolved into heresy. There are people in this world who don’t know about the Grace of God that we receive in the Body and Blood of His Son. There are people in this world who can’t even practice their Christianity in public for fear that they will be tortured and killed! And we’re too old, too tired, too busy to make it to Church.
Of course, I also know that some of you are thinking that I’m preaching to the choir. After all, you’re here, so you’re off the hook, right? Well, you know that you don’t get off that easy; mainly because I know that every one of us has declined an invitation to the banquet at some point in time. Let me give you an example.
As you all know, the schedule for Holy Week at St. James consists of six distinct services; Palm Sunday, Tenebrae, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Eve, and Easter Day. It goes without saying that as Catholic Christians we are required to be in Church on these days. This year, there were in total sixteen fewer people in attendance than in 2015.
The schedule for Holy Week had been published months in advance; and there were regular reminders in the Sunday bulletins every week. How many of you attended any of these services (and before you answer, remember, I know who was here)?
During these services we worshiped God; we praised God; we gave thanks to God. And if you weren’t here, then you need to ask yourselves; “where was I”? Watching football? Watching “America’s Funniest Home Videos”? Thinking, “well, I went to Mass last Sunday, so that’s good enough”? Did you decline the invitation? Did you disappoint God?
What do you expect me to say? I know of people who physically cannot make it to Church, and yet they call me so that they can receive the Blessed Sacrament! So that they can receive the Grace of God. So that they can ACCEPT THE INVITATION! So that they won’t disappoint God.
I hope by now that you’ve gotten the point. And to it, let me add this; “go out into the highways and hedges : and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled”. Yes, it’s that old, “you’ve got to tell others” thing again. Well, have you ever received an invitation that asks for an RSVP; and that RSVP asks how many guests you’ll be bringing with you?
Well, how many others will you bring? We often see more people here on Christmas and Easter than on a “normal” Sunday; people we don’t usually see from week to week. These people need to know that this is a standing invitation. They are not required to be here only on Christmas and Easter; but also on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, New Years Day, Pentecost, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. Every Sunday! Every time we praise God. Every time we worship God. Every time the banquet is offered.
It’s your responsibility to get them here. “A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at suppertime to say to them that were bidden: Come, for all things are now ready “. You are the servants that God has sent into the streets and lanes of the city. You are the servants that God has sent out to the highways and hedges. You are the ones to whom God has entrusted the responsibility for bringing people to the banquet. And when you fail to do that, you are the ones who disappoint God.
What do you expect me to say? Sunday mornings are a great time for golf. A great time for catching up on sleep before the work week starts. A great time to relax, read the paper, work in our garden, enjoy some quiet time; I know, I’ve been there. But a few years ago, I made a commitment. That commitment meant that I will be in Church, performing such duties as the Church requires, as often as the Church requires. It was only after I made the decision to seek ordination that I realized that I had actually made this commitment many years before.
That commitment was to Christianity. That commitment was to the Catholic Faith. And that commitment holds true, regardless of whether I am ordained or not. You see, the moment I say, “I am a Christian”, I commit to certain things. And one of those things is that I have accepted the invitation to the banquet offered by God Himself; and likewise invited others to attend as well.
The goal is to share a special moment, a special day, a wonderful joy, with God. Every service offered by the Church; every Mass, every offering of the Rosary or Benediction or Mattins or Evensong, is a separate invitation to the banquet offered by Our Lord. God Himself has requested our presence at these events that are special to Him; Let us not leave him disappointed.
A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at suppertime to say to them that were bidden: Come, for all things are now ready