In Jesus’ parable, the King has prepared the feast – all is ready, the invitations sent … and resent, and yet amazingly, people don’t come. In our reading it says that people ignored the invitation. The underlying word in Greek means to ignore in a way that is careless – or perhaps, not being sufficiently careful with treasures with which we have been charged.
Parables are meant to get you to stop and think about what you have just heard. Why would people pass up on this extraordinary invitation: it comes from a king, it involves a lavish feast for the wedding of his son. The invitation is issued several times. Who could refuse it? Who would be careless with it? Why don’t they show up? I guess their lives were filled with other things – other than the great feast.
Henry David Thoreau said that “Nature abhors a vacuum.” I suspect most of us have heard that bit of wisdom. But that is not the end of Thoreau’s thought. The full quote is “Nature abhors a vacuum, and if I can only walk this life with sufficient carelessness I am sure to be filled.”
Perhaps the people in the parable had filled their lives with all manner of things that seemed important, vital, necessary, and good. When the invitation from the king came, there was just a whole lot going on. While the invitation from the King was good in theory, it did not rise to the top of the list.
It made me think about my life in faith, … our life in faith. How are we walking this life? With care or carelessly. Because if the latter, we then have to ask, what invitations are we missing? What’s not rising to the top?
Maybe one way to approach this spiritual assessment is to think about what fills our life. For my part, the administration of the parish can take up every bit of time and energy available. Were that the case, it would be careless on my part. What about the pastoral, the spiritual, and the sacramental elements of service to the people of the parish? What about my own sacramental life? Some folks assume that because I am a priest and celebrate sacraments on a daily basis, I have a rich sacramental life. Maybe; depends on if I am being careful. It is easy to carelessly slip into celebrating Mass as “the next thing to do…” Sounds horrible, yes? It would be unless I carefully attend to each celebration and be fully present to the invitation God has extended on that day, at that Mass. Perhaps I am doing well as pastor in the sacramental, spiritual, pastoral, and administrative elements – but what about personal spiritual growth and development?
I will admit to having a never-ending invitation to spiritual growth and development. The mindfulness to the preparation of homilies is in its own way an experience of contemplation, consideration, and prayer. I can say the same about preparation for Bible Study. I have filled up on things that being a parish priest demand, but am I so full, am I missing the invitation to something else. Hmmmm?
It is good to have a community or other folks looking over your shoulder to make sure you are preparing and answering the right invitations. Growing up many weekends were taken up with invitational swim meets. My sisters and I were all very good swimmers and there was no lack of important meets, preliminaries, finals, medals and trophies that took up the entire family. Looking back on it all, I realize that were it left to me, I would have filled up the whole weekend with swimming meets. But before one entered the meet, mom insisted that we figure out when/where we were attending Mass. There was no sense in entering prelims for an event if finals would be during Saturday Vigil mass time. And if we were going to Mass Sunday morning, then there were events you just couldn’t enter because you’d miss prelims. My Mormon mother was the enforcer. She was very careful about keeping our practice of the faith as a family priority.
Sometime last century, I was a catechist for the 8th grade Confirmation class. It was a rural parish spread over parts of three counties with lots of the parents working in the Washington DC metropolitan area about an hour to an hour-and-a-half commute away. It made week-night faith formation difficult to schedule; so, Confirmation classes were on Sunday. One parent asked to meet with me. She handed me a list of all the conflicts Confirmation class was causing because of being held on Sunday – the majority of which related to a traveling elite soccer team and season tickets to the Washington Redskins games. After some discussion, it turns out that Sunday mass was also a conflict in scheduling on those same weekends.
We had a nice conversation. I told her the story about my mom, watching out for us and being careful to make sure the main thing remained the main thing. I said that looking back on it, I was grateful that there was someone looking out for me. That my childhood was filled, but carefully so. It was a good conversation, she figured it all out and her child well celebrated Confirmation.
We can all figure it out. It helps to have someone reminds us of priorities and that we are holding the invitation to the Great Wedding Feast of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Take some time this week to think about how carefully (or not) your life has been filled. Maybe we received the fancy embossed invitation, or maybe we are rounded up from the highways and hedgerows – either way – we’re invited to this Eucharistic feast. It’s weekly, yes, but it is extraordinary and we need to prepare, be careful, and be mindful of why we are here. We need to be careful with the fruits of this celebration. Careful with wisdom, fortitude, humility of Christ in the readings and Eucharist. Careful in our life of prayer; in our behaviors. Careful as servants of the Lord, sent out to invite others.
“Nature abhors a vacuum, and if I can only walk this life with sufficient carelessness I am sure to be filled.”
May God fill us all with the blessings of this Eucharist and a life well walked.